Yoga and Mindfulness for Cardiovascular System

Yoga has three elements – exercise, breathing and meditation. Fatty deposits in the arteries cause the walls to stiffen and thicken the walls. This can restrict blood flow, resulting in hypertension, heart attack or stroke. Yoga and mindfulness improve the blood circulation and thereby reduces the causes of hypertension, heart attack or stroke. Yoga detoxifies muscles and organs and thereby improves blood circulation. Yoga brings harmony in heart and lungs. Yoga and mindfulness pumps the immune system and balance the cardiovascular system.

“Yoga is synchronization of breathing with movements and thereby harmonization of  heart, brain and the lung.” – Amit Ray

Cardiovascular system:

The cardiovascular system is a vast network of organs and vessels that is responsible for the flow of blood, nutrients, hormones, oxygen and other gases to and from cells. Our heart is responsible for pumping the blood throughout the body. Blood is pumped away from the heart at high pressure in arteries and returns to the heart at low pressure in veins. Each day the heart beats about 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. The function of the cardiovascular system is to circulate blood through a network of vessels throughout the body. The oxygen rich blood leaves the heart via the arteries and delivers nutrients and oxygen to the cells in the body in exchange for waste and carbon dioxide.

Every day, the approximately 5 liters of blood in your body travel many times through about 60,000 miles (96,560 kilometers). Our heart beats from 60 to 100 times per minute. The heart gets messages from the body that tell it when to pump more or less blood depending on an individual’s needs. When we’re sleeping, it pumps just enough to provide for the lower amounts of oxygen needed by our bodies at rest.

The heart has four chambers. The bottom part of the heart is divided into two chambers called the right and left ventricles, which pump blood out of the heart. The upper part of the heart is made up of the other two chambers of the heart, the right and left atria. The right and left atria receive the blood entering the heart. There are valves which prevent blood from flowing backward when heart contracts and relaxes.Heart_Lungs_1

One complete heartbeat makes up a cardiac cycle, which consists of two phases: in the first phase, the ventricles contract (this is called systole), sending blood into the systemic circulation. Then the ventricles relax (this is called diastole) and fill with blood from the atria, which makes up the second phase of the cardiac cycle. At rest, a typical systolic blood pressure in a healthy individual ranges from 110-140mmHg and 60-90mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. Our heart works in conjunction with the lungs – as it is the lungs that supply the oxygen to the heart and eliminates the waste of carbon dioxide.

Yoga for the formation of new capillaries:

Good yoga session includes exercise of every part of your body. HeartBreathing control, relaxation and meditation are also part of the practice. During yoga session the massaging effect on the internal organs improve blood circulation. During moderate to intense yoga exercise your heart rate increases, and your heart pumps more blood. As a result, your systolic blood pressure rises and blood volume increases. It provides better circulation and formation of new capillaries and a quick recovery of resting heart rate. Yoga exercises stretch the body’s major blood vessels, keeping them free-flowing and elastic. Complete yoga breathing oxygenates the blood and assists fresh nutrients to reach all peripheral vessels and capillaries. Gentle yoga exercises are often better alternative to general exercise.  Yoga diaphragmatic breathing improves lung efficiency and blood circulation in the body.

Mindfulness meditation and blood circulation:

Chronic stress is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Meditation has long been proven as a potential technique for improving memory and lowering levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Vipassana meditation is the most ancient form of mindfulness. Vipassana meditation (VM) requires becoming aware of all the feelings in the body and acknowledging any negative feelings, pain, or blockages in order to achieve equanimity. Vipassana meditation requires focusing on the limbs, lungs, heart, diaphragm and head. This focusing improves the calmness of the mind and the blood circulation. There are two types of mindfulness: dispositional, or trait mindfulness and state mindfulness or mindfulness meditation. Dispositional, or trait mindfulness, refers to the level of mindfulness a person has during daily activities. Whereas the state mindfulness is the level of mindfulness a person obtains during mindfulness meditation exercises. Scientist observed that dispositional mindfulness is positively associated with cardiovascular health.

Yoga and mindfulness research issues:

Researchers have made a lot of progress in understanding yoga and mindfulness for blood circulation and cardiovascular system. Howerver, in yoga and mindfulness research very few effort has been given for flawless data collection. Clinical trials for yoga and mindfulness meditation require strict and flawless data collection, tracking, and analysis. The number of participants has to be high enough that it can support actual outcomes. Handling recruitment, appointments, writing, collecting data, and tracking that data for long term, and coordination are often overburden for researchers. Presently, the quality of research in the area of yoga and mindfulness meditation are often not up to the standard. High-quality scientific studies are necessary to understand the exact mechanism of yoga and mindfulness meditation in this field.

References: 

1. Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Lifestyle by Amit Ray
2. Physiological Effects of Mind and Body Practices.
3.  Mindfulness may both moderate and mediate the effect of physical fitness on cardiovascular responses to stress: a speculative hypothesis. 
4.  Positive Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Cardiovascular Health: the New England Family Study
5. The Benefits of Dispositional Mindfulness in Physical Health: A Longitudinal Study of Female College Students 
6. Relaxation techniques: Breath control

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