How yoga can help your heart

April 16, 2019 | by Ann Davis, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

There’s something to be said for the mind’s power to heal the body. We have more control over our health than we think.

We already know physical exercise is really good for your heart, and overall health. Regular activity that increases your heart rate makes your heart stronger and more efficient.

It’s also been established that meditation can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Combine the two — and you have yoga!

Yoga is a gentle way to combine a physical workout that challenges your heart and muscles and a meditation session that quiets your mind. With practice, you learn mindfulness — how to focus on your breathing and stay in the moment.

Studies suggest mindful movement activities like yoga may help to improve heart health, quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses.

The physical component of yoga isn’t easy, which is good. Pushing yourself (with guidance from a teacher) to try more difficult poses can increase your heart rate, strength and flexibility.

There are yoga styles that are slower and more relaxing (such as restorative yoga) and others that will get your heart pumping (like power yoga or Vinyasa). Even if you choose the slower class, you’ll experience some heart-health benefits. (If you have physical limitations or prefer the restorative class, supplement your routine with regular cardio such as walking or spinning.)

Now, complete your heart-healthy lifestyle. In addition to your regular yoga practice:

  • Take care of yourself with mindful eating and choose food that will advance your health.
  • If you smoke, stop. One year after you quit smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s. Within 15 years, your risk is the same as that of a nonsmoker.
  • Get enough sleep. Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

The strengthening, meditative practice of yoga is an excellent way to help keep your heart healthy. What does yoga do for you? Let us know in the comments.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, you have access to the latest advancements for diagnosing and treating heart and vascular disease. Learn more about our heart and vascular services.

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