5 Ways Yoga is Good for your Heart

5 Ways Yoga is Good for your Heart

Lauren Diffendarfer

by Lauren Diffendarfer

Medical Educator

posted on Feb 23, 2015, at 9:48 pm

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HATHA YOGA, A PRACTICE INVOLVING BREATHING EXERCISES combined with specific poses and postures, has been around since the 15th century. It has become increasingly popular in America as a means to improve health. While some people are aware of these health benefits, did you know yoga could be particularly good for your heart?

woman doing warrior yoga pose on beachHere are some ways yoga improves heart health.

1. Yoga Relieves Stress

Stress and heart disease go hand in hand. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), stress affects behaviors that often increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Think about it: when you’re under high levels of stress, you may be more inclined to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking, being physically inactive, and indulging in unhealthy eating of “comfort foods”. The body’s natural reaction to stress can bring on headaches, lower energy levels and sleeplessness, further contributing to your stress, which can continue as a brutal cycle.

Because yoga is a form of mind-body medicine, it has been proven to reduce stress. According to Parsahd, yoga includes meditation that stabilizes the autonomic nervous system and uses para-sympathic dominance. In essence, practicing yoga can improve resilience to stressful situations, minimizing the negative health effects, especially cardiac disease.

2. Yoga Reduces Blood Pressure
Yoga has also been linked to lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension. According to a study conducted by Dr. Debbie Cohen, women and men who practiced yoga two to three times weekly were associated with an average drop in blood pressure readings from 133/80 to 130/77.

The breathing and meditative aspects of yoga generally promote good cardiovascular health, according to the researchers of the study. While yoga is not a treatment for hypertension, it has been determined to lower blood pressure, heart rate and body mass index levels when compared to those who are sedentary.

3. Yoga Keeps You Moving

While practicing yoga cannot completely replace physical activity, hatha yoga does represent exercise similar to walking on a treadmill at about 2 mph, according to a study conducted by Hagins.

If simply walking for increased physical activity does not appeal to you, consider a yoga session for a comparable workout.

4. Yoga Increases Lung Capacity

A good vital lung capacity is crucial for overall health, and without it, one’s risk of heart disease is increased. According to a study by Birkel, Yoga poses and breathing techniques are correlated with an improvement in vital lung capacity. The researchers studied 287 college students, who were taught yoga poses and breathing techniques in two 50-minute training sessions weekly for 15 weeks total.

5. Yoga Strengthens Muscles
While this may not seem related to heart health, when in yoga poses that strengthen the muscles, your circulation increases. Any movement that gets your heart rate up increases circulation, thus improving overall heart health. There are a variety of different types of yoga, but to improve circulation and increase muscle mass, it is often recommended to focus on cardio and strength-focused yoga.

We want to know: Have you ever tried yoga?

References:

Parshad, O. “Role of yoga in stress management.” The West Indian Medical Journal 53.3 (2004): 191-194.

Hagins, Marshall, Wendy Moore, and Andrew Rundle. “Does practicing hatha yoga satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness?.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 7.1 (2007): 40.

Birkel, D. A., and Lee Edgren. “Hatha yoga: improved vital capacity of college students.” Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine 6.6 (2000): 55-63.

About Lauren

Lauren works as the Medical Educator for the Disque Foundation and has worked closely with us since 2014. She is a full-time student pursuing a BS in Biology at Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school to become a physician in the future. She is certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she is also a certified Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. She stays heavily involved with health care in and out of her local community, helping plan and coordinate Disque Foundation events, teaching lifesaving skills to the communities and organizations that we serve and volunteering at her hometown hospital in the Birthing Unit.
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