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Heart-Health Benefits of Yoga, How yoga may enhance heart health, Is yoga heart-healthy?,How Yoga Benefits the Heart, 10 Yoga Poses for Heart Health,Health Benefits of Yoga for Heart Patients, Yoga and how it can benefit you, How Yoga Can Support Heart Health

Subject : Heart-Health Benefits of Yoga, How yoga may enhance heart health, Is yoga heart-healthy?,How Yoga Benefits the Heart, 10 Yoga Poses for Heart Health,Health Benefits of Yoga for Heart Patients, Yoga and how it can benefit you, How Yoga Can Support Heart Health

It’s no secret that yoga is good for your body and mind, providing benefits like better flexibility, increased strength, and improvements in energy and mood. There’s also growing evidence that it can be good for your heart.

The practice of yoga, which originated in India thousands of years ago, has been the focus of a number of clinical studies, and evidence shows that all those Sun Salutations and Downward-Facing Dogs may contribute to a healthier heart. For example, a trial published in March 2022 in the International Journal of Yoga found that after 12 weeks of practicing yoga — performing breathing exercises and yoga postures, also called asanas — roughly 60 minutes every day, patients with stable heart failure who were also on standard medical therapy experienced significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction, which measures how well the left ventricle chamber of the heart can pump blood with each heart beat. Researchers also found that patients in the yoga group had reduced inflammation and better quality of life compared with patients in the control group.

If you have a heart condition, speak to your doctor about which level of yoga may be right for you. And if you’re just starting out in yoga or have health concerns, speak with the yoga instructor prior to class. Your instructor can offer tips and modifications so you can get the most out of the class.

1. Yoga Gets You Moving, Which Is a Good Thing

Not getting enough exercise can lead to heart disease, the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). But it’s never too late to start. Research shows that people who do yoga are more likely to become active and adopt healthy eating habits, which can protect the heart. A study published in May 2018 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that young adults who had a regular yoga practice reported healthier eating habits and more hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The results of another review, published in 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, demonstrated that stretching exercises significantly reduced arterial stiffness, the hardening of the arteries that pump blood to the heart and through out the body, and improved heart function in middle-aged and older adults.

The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week for overall heart health and moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week for additional health benefits.

2. Yoga Helps You Chill Out

While researchers haven’t determined exactly how stress contributes to heart disease, stress can lead to an increase in behaviors and other factors that elevate heart disease risk. These include smoking, physical inactivity, overeating, and high blood pressure.

Studies show that yoga can help improve mental health, increase feelings of relaxation, and improve a person’s mood among people who practice it. The mind-body practice helps regulate the parasympathetic nervous system, part of the nervous system that tells you to calm down. A study published in August 2020 in Stress & Health showed that yoga classes with breathing exercises and meditation reduced perceived stress and increased mindfulness in its participants.

“Most stress-relief techniques involve some attention to breathing,” says Joel Kahn, MD, a cardiologist at the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and author of The Whole Heart Solution. “One of the essential focuses of all styles of yoga is awareness of the breath and being more mindful,” he says. “So either explicit or implicit attention to stress reduction is inherent in almost all yoga classes.”

3. Yoga May Lower Your Chances of Getting High Blood Pressure

Yoga may play a role in managing prehypertension, according to a systematic review published in September 2021 in Scientific World Journal. Researchers reviewed a handful of studies that found meditation, and breathing and yoga exercises, decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom number on a blood pressure reading) in patients with prehypertension. While the review didn’t provide a structured “dose” of yoga poses and breathing techniques, the study authors concluded yoga can help reduce the chances of developing high blood pressure or heart disease.

“We know physiologically what yoga does is improve the parasympathetic tone in the nervous system,” says Shamita Misra, MD, an obstetrician at the University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia, who has also studied the effects of yoga on blood pressure. “It brings down the heart rate, and the less the heart has to work, the less steps you take, the stronger those steps will be.

4. Yoga May Soothe an Irregular Heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation, or afib, is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating that can lead to stroke and other complications. According to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2020, practicing yoga could help people with afib manage their symptoms. The study enrolled 538 participants from 2012 to 2017. For 12 weeks, participants didn’t do yoga, then for 16 weeks, they attended 30-minute yoga sessions every other day, which included postures and breathing. During the 16-week period, participants experienced a drop in the number of episodes.

“There may be some potential for yoga to help in the treatment of people with afib to reduce the number of episodes they have,” says Robert Ostfeld, MD, founder, and director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York.

5. Yoga Promotes a Sense of Community

After a heart attack or other significant cardiac event, many patients may feel a sense of social isolation and can even develop depression. “The patient may not feel safe or strong enough to go out and about,” says Dr. Ostfeld. “They may be confronting their mortality in a way that’s new for them. Or they may be coming to grips that they may not be able to do all of the things that they used to do.”

Evidence suggests that yoga can help with that. A study published in January 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participation in community-wide programs targeting cardiovascular risk factors and behavioral changes was associated with a drop in mortality rates and hospitalizations in a rural county in Maine.

Participating in yoga classes can provide a sense of community that may help ease these feelings of depression and isolation. “A yoga class provides a safe environment and connection with other people moving and flowing together,” Dr. Kahn says. “It’s hard to quantify the benefits of social interaction, but I think that if you take people with health issues, and if there’s a place they have that they feel at home, they are more likely to make healthier decisions.”

Yoga can also ease symptoms of depression, especially when combined with usual treatment, like cognitive behavioral therapy, according to a study published in May 2019 an American Family Physician.

Another small study, published in 2017 in the International Journal of Yoga, found that doing 60 minutes of a similar yoga practice twice a week over the course of 12 weeks decreased levels of depression and anxiety and increased self-esteem among elderly women.

How to Choose a Yoga Class That’s Right for You

Interested in trying a yoga class? While there are many yoga styles to choose from, you don’t have to stick with just one. And diving into a difficult one-hour class to start seeing benefits isn’t necessary either, says Dr. Misra. 

“You really don’t need that long intervention, because when I did my study, we found results after the 15 minutes of just yoga breathing,” says Misra. “But we don’t have that information on what is the critical number in minutes of intervention with yoga that produces the positive outcome.”

Hatha yoga, a branch of yoga that’s commonly used in the West, refers to the practice of physical postures. Yoga styles like vinyasa, Iyengar, and ashtanga, to name a few, all fall under hatha yoga. Make sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

  • Vinyasa yoga, also called “flow” yoga, focuses on the combination of breath and movement. Classes can vary from being fast-paced and intense, like power yoga or ashtanga, to a more gentle pace that’s suitable for beginners or for people who have physical limitations due to health conditions, like slow-flow or an alignment-focused class.
  • Hot yoga involves practicing yoga in a heated room. Though many other types of hot yoga exist today, the most popular — and hottest form — is Bikram yoga, which involves a sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a room that is dialed up to 105 degrees F. People with certain heart conditions, or anyone sensitive to extreme heat, might want to avoid practicing this form of yoga as it may exacerbate health issues, Ostfeld says.
  • Iyengar yoga is a form of yoga that focuses on body alignment through different body postures. It’s different from other styles of yoga because it uses props, like a chair, blocks, and belts, and can be adjusted to each person’s skill level and body type.
  • Kundalini, which means “coiled snake,” is a combination of breathing exercises, chanting, music, meditation, and movement. The goal is to “uncoil the snake” and unlock the energy from the base of your spine to the top of your head to awaken the seven chakras — places where your body stores energy. A more spiritual form of yoga, kundalini can be a good option for reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Defined by a slower-paced style, yin yoga holds poses for five minutes or more, which may be challenging for beginners just starting out. This style is also meditative by nature and might be worth trying for those looking for a class that’s a little more physical than kundalini yoga while not as active as vinyasa yoga.
  • Slow and peaceful in style, restorative yoga focuses on opening your body through long-held stretches allowing you to focus on the breath. Helpful props, like blocks, pillows, and cushions, are used to support the body in various poses. This restful practice is good for reducing pain and increasing mental well-being.

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