I have been practicing yoga for over 17 years now, the benefits of which have been unsurpassable. Through yoga, I have learned how to breathe more efficiently, release stress and anxiety, relieve backaches and shoulder spasms, and feel a sense of calm and inner strength, despite being faced with the never-ending challenges of everyday life. Yoga has undoubtedly been instrumental in enhancing my overall health and wellbeing.
Modern research shows that this amazing ancient practice can help improve the health of your heart and also reduce the risk of heart disease. To better comprehend how yoga can impact heart health, let’s first understand what causes heart disease. Research conducted by the National Institute of Health states: coronary heart disease (CHD) begins with damage to the lining and inner layers of the coronary (heart) arteries. Several factors contribute to this damage:
1. Smoking, including secondhand smoke
2. High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
3. High blood pressure
4. High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
5. Blood vessel inflammation
6. Plaque may begin to build up where the arteries are damaged. vii. The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries may start in childhood.
The cover of Just Breathe by author Radhika Vachani.
Stress, poor lifestyle habits, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and overindulgence of alcohol, largely cause this damage. The reality is that when we do not feel good, we often act in ways that do not support our overall health and well-being.
The modern world is undoubtedly challenging and leads to a restless, chaotic and anxious mind. This unsteady mind is the cause of much of your unhappiness and ill health. Simply put, your thoughts affect how you feel, which in turn affects how you act. Your actions, then impact the quality of all your life experiences. To live a happy and healthy life, you must be willing to take the time to bring order to your mind. Yoga, teaches you how to relax, tame and transform the mind.
Below are the tremendous benefits of this ancient practice if followed regularly, can significantly impact your overall well-being and also the health of your heart:
1. Yoga incorporates physical activity, breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques, all of which help maintain a healthy mind and body.
2. The physical postures known as yoga asana increases the flexibility of the muscles and releases stress and tension.
3. Yoga strengthens muscles, which helps the body become more sensitive to insulin, a key factor in controlling blood sugar.
4. Pranayama (breathing) practices can lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function, heart rate, and boost circulation.
Please note: people suffering from heart problems should only undertake simple breathing practices that do not tax or strain the heart. Pranayama, if not done under proper guidance can also be very harmful to the mind, heart, and body.
5. Mind-calming and meditation techniques bring the nervous system into balance, relieves stress and anxiety, and induces better sleep.
6. Yoga helps cleanse the internal body, increase energy levels and improves one’s general outlook on life. This positive state of being increasing one’s desire to live a healthier and more balanced life, to eat a clean, healthy and balanced diet, and to improve overall lifestyle habits.
To further reinforce the health benefits of yoga, here’s what John Hopkins Medicine, a leading healthcare system in the United States has to say: “A growing body of research from Johns Hopkins shows that practicing yoga can lower stress and help those recovering from heart events.” For more information: https://goo.gl/kjkxTo
Yoga is much more than just a physical practice. It is, in fact, a life practice, that teaches us how to live in a world filled with uncertainty, impermanence, and volatility, with grace and equanimity. Yoga leads to a beautiful awakening, resulting in a natural evolution towards a more awakened, wholesome and harmonious state of being.
Radhika Vachani is the author of Just Breathe, a motivational speaker, yoga and holistic wellness expert, and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India . Connect with Radhika at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.