Yoga & Your Heart

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If you think Yoga is about bending into a pretzel, you're quite mistaken.

The practice of Yoga can play a pivotal role in heart care.  Cardiologists recommend Yoga for its multiple actions in the form of exercises, breath control, sleep control and mind control. Findings show that people who practice yoga and meditation at least three times a week may reduce their blood pressure, pulse and — most importantly — their risk of heart disease.

As described by Pitanjali, one of India’s original Yoga master, Yoga entails “restraining extrovert activities of the mind so the self emerges in its own form". It drives a person to self-realization, to awaken latent powers of the body through various asanas (yogic postures) and the mind through meditation and pranayama (breath work). All this results in relaxation and optimal health - body and the mind.

According to a study at Yale University, volunteers taking a six-week yoga-meditation program improved blood vessel function by 17%.   Blood vessel function, also called endothelial function, is the way vessels contract and expand to aid blood flow and is a measure of healthy vessel function.  However, study participants who had heart disease had close to a 70% improvement in endothelial function.

The process of doing Yoga empowers the whole person – mind, body, heart and spirit. Whether you are doing physical yoga, the benefits extends into the emotional and mental bodies. On the same token, practicing mindful meditation relaxes and balances the physical and emotional body.

Yoga treats a person not merely as a mass of flesh and blood, but as a being with a soul. Doctors are increasingly recognizing that this kind of treatment can give patients greater solace and better recovery. As soon as a person takes to Yoga, their life pattern, personality and diet changes. They begin to naturally move away from destructive habits such as smoking, drinking, consuming unhealthy foods and negative thought patterns.  The physical activity in Yoga enhances cardiac efficiency soon after a person starts practicing. In fact, Yoga is as effective in increasing muscle efficiency as any dynamic exercise like running or swimming.

Dr. S. Thanikachalam, a specialist in heart diseases, describes yoga as "a combination of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and physiotherapy", and that it directly affects the hypothalamus - area of the brain controlling endocrine activity - in preventing cardiac attacks. This helps generate positive spontaneous energy, which helps the person correct himself, and think clearly.

Viola, a 68 year old yoga student of mine suffered two strokes prior to taking up Yoga. Now she keeps a more positive outlook on life and reaps the reward. “ Yoga has been a cure for me. With no side effects!�, says Viola.

Yoga has an important role in both the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases as well as recurrence of heart attacks, hypertension and coronary heart diseases. As opposed to a therapeutic intervention, such as an angioplasty or bypass surgery, which cannot stop the disease from cropping up again - medical practitioners agree - Yoga can definitely help in hindering the progress of heart diseases. According to Dr. H.S. Wasir, mental relaxation through meditation and Yoga contribute heavily to the prevention of atherosclerosis (narrowing of coronary arteries and brain blood vessels).

Asanas or Yoga postures have a positive catalytic effect that helps control not only heart diseases, but many others, such as diabetes, obesity, and psychiatric illnesses.

My favorite heart opening posture is matsyasana - “the fish�, for its ability to expands and stretch the chest,  relieve upper respiratory, drain and open the sinus, stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands while increasing circulation in my heart. A soothing sensation in my heart chakra!

Find out about my 9 weeks Soulfull Yoga Heart Care program.  For more information, email:

Angelique Shofar writes on physical and spiritual wellness for The Black Star News


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