The Connection Between Yoga and Heart Health
Improving your heart health may be as simple as adding yoga to your schedule several times a week. The mind-body practice not only keeps your body limber and flexible but also offers important benefits for your heart.
Yoga Reduces Stress Naturally
Stress and anxiety cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, ranging from headaches to heartburn to insomnia. Stress can:
- Raise Your Blood Pressure. When you're stressed, your blood vessels narrow, increasing the pressure of the blood flowing through your body. Over time, high pressure can damage the vessels and make them less elastic. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries, and vision loss.
- Increase Inflammation. Stress may increase inflammation in your body, which can be a factor in heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
- Narrow Your Arteries. The hormones you produce when you're stressed may damage your arteries and cause them to thicken and narrow. Blood flow to your heart and other organs slows down when the arteries narrow, increasing your risk of chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, and aneurysms.
- Affect Your Heart Rhythm. Stress may affect the rhythm of your heart and could even trigger a heart attack in severe cases.
The combination of yoga poses, meditation, and deep breathing, all key aspects of your yoga practice, helps you reduce stress naturally. Yoga triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, two hormones that help you feel calm and in control, while also decreasing the production of hormones that trigger the physical effects of stress.
Yoga Helps You Say Goodbye to Bad Habits
Mindfulness, a form of meditation, that helps you stay fully engaged in the present instead of obsessing about the past or worrying about the future, can also help you protect your heart. When you practice mindfulness, you focus only on your senses, emotions, and thoughts.
When you're in touch with your body, you may be much more committed to eating a healthy diet, losing weight, or avoiding smoking or other behaviors that can contribute to heart disease.
People who practiced yoga reported less stress eating, fewer cravings, and reduced appetite in a study that appeared in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2016.
Yoga Can Strengthen Your Heart
The more vigorous forms of yoga, like hot and power yoga, raise your heart rate and offer an excellent aerobic workout. Aerobic exercise keeps your heart strong, makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, and lowers your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Less strenuous forms of yoga can also help you protect your health. Yoga increases and improves muscle tone, which helps you shed extra pounds or avoid gaining weight.
Yoga May Reduce Atrial Fibrillation Episodes
Atrial fibrillation, commonly called AFib, causes the heart to beat irregularly and increases the risk of heart failure and stroke. Practicing yoga often may help people who have AFib reduce the number of these distressing episodes.
Research study participants who took yoga classes twice a week for three months had fewer symptomatic and asymptomatic AFib episodes and lower blood pressure and heart rate. The study, published in the Journal of the American College in Cardiology, also noted that participants reported less stress and depression after practicing yoga.
Yoga is an excellent way to keep your heart, mind, and body healthy. Have you been considering enrolling in a yoga class? Contact us for information on our available classes and schedules.
European Journal of Preventive Cardiology: The Effectiveness of Yoga in Modifying Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Metabolic Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, 12/15/14