Yoga for Cardiovascular Health

Yoga is a healthy lifestyle. Yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate, and boost circulation and muscle tone. Regular yoga exercise can prevent heart disease.  Anyone can practice yoga. Yoga will help you to feel more energetic. Scientists observed that regular and adequate levels of physical activity in adults can reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and can help maintain a healthy weight. Researchers across the world telling us that lifestyle modification is  the cornerstone for successful health management. Physical activity is one of the most promising therapies for the treatment and prevention of  all age-related diseases. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome are major public health problems in the USA and worldwide. Scientific reviews have shown yoga to be beneficial in treatment of coronary heart disease, post-myocardial infarction rehabilitation, and hyper- tension [4]. Autonomic imbalance with sympathetic overactivity leads to hypertension, arrhythmias, and metabolic dysfunction and that problem can be addressed by yoga. Yoga improves overall strength, stamina, and flexibility.

What is Cardiovascular Health?

Cardiovascular health is a term used to describe health of the heart and the blood vessels. Cardiovascular health deteriorates with smoking, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, too little or too much physical activity, stress, worry, overweight, obesity, poor nutrition and diabetes. Major cardiovascular diseases are: coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease. Being under the care of a trusted doctor is critical, too. Cardiovascular health improves with healthy eating and healthy lifestyle of yoga and meditation.  Fitness, nutrition, and mental health are the keys for maintaining good cardiovascular health.

Reasons for Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart is blocked or reduced by a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) in the coronary arteries. A sudden release of stress hormones may play a role in causing the disorder. Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina.

Symptoms Cardiovascular Disorder

Common symptoms of heart attack include pain and pressure in the chest, neck, arm, jaw, shortness of breath, dizziness and a cold sweat. Symptoms of stroke may include blurred vision, numbness, weakness in the arms and impaired speech. Peripheral arterial disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease, occurs when there’s a blockage in the arteries to your limbs (usually your legs). The most common symptom of peripheral arterial disease is pain in the legs when walking. The pain can feel like cramp, a dull pain or a sensation of heaviness in your leg muscles. If these symptoms are there, being under the care of a trusted doctor is very very important.

How Yoga Improves Cardiovascular Health

yoga-healthYoga is a form of mind-body fitness exercise producing a physiological state opposite to that of the fight-or-flight stress response. The postures practiced in yoga help in balancing the autonomic nervous system. This allows the body to be less ‘reactive’ to changes in stress levels, or even vigorous exercise, resulting in a calmer, less anxious physiological environment. Researchers observed that yoga exercises decrease resting blood pressure, increase parasympathetic tone, reduce physiological and psychological response to treat and improve baroreflex function/sensitivity. Yoga and exercises lowers blood pressure, reducing strain on the heart and increases good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for further processing. Generally, the bad cholesterol (LDL) forms fatty deposits in the arteries and contribute to heart disease. Exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] level), as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (the high-density lipoprotein level [HDL]) [5].

Stress and Cardiovascular Health

cardiovascular-yogaStress is an integral and inevitable part of modern day life. Repeated exposure to episodes of stress have an adverse impact on health in general and cardiovascular function in particular. Mental stress or anxiety causes increased sympathetic activation and poor vagus nerve control over heart. Imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system leads to vasospasm and has been associated with Hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease and Myocardial Infarction. Psychosocial stress has also been found to be responsible for imbalance in autonomic nervous system, causing sympathetic dominance over parasympathetic leading to acute coronary events [3].

Yoga and Cardiovascular Health

Yoga is means of exercise primarily using gentle static stretching postures with minimal physical exertion and conscious breathing to promote flexibility and relaxation. Among the various branches of yoga (such as Hatha, Raja, and Mantra), Hatha yoga is the most beneficial and widely practiced, which consists of elements of physical postures, conscious breathing, and meditation. Hatha yoga appears safe and easy to learn and does not require any complicated or expensive equipment or specific training venue and thus could be suggested as an alternative form of exercise associated with high exercise adherence.  Many researchers like Streeter et al. observed that yoga reduces stress-induced allostatic load in three stress reactive systems: the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, and the GABAergic system [2].

Benefits of Yoga Exercises on Cardiovascular Health 

  • Increase in exercise tolerance
  • Reduction in body weight
  • Reduction in blood pressure
  • Reduction in bad (LDL and total) cholesterol
  • Increase in good (HDL) cholesterol
  • Increase in insulin sensitivity

Basic Yoga Lifestyle:

Yoga accepts individuals regardless of any barrier. There are no rules, no expectations, and no judgments. Anyone can benefit from the practice of yoga as long as she or he is patient and approaches the practice with an open mind.  Yoga practice is about grounding and releasing; it involves effort but not struggle. Yoga is the joining of the mind, body, and spirit. It’s an inner peace and union with the environment by means of quieting the constant chatter of the mind, creating a healthy body, and being at peace with who you are and the world around you. Yoga lifestyle includes:

  • Daily 15 to 60 minutes of yoga exercises
  • Detoxify your body by drinking at least 3 to 4 liters of water daily
  • Get a sound sleep of 7 to 8 hours
  • Include more green vegetables in your diet and eat on time
  • Make sure your diet is providing you your daily amount of vitamins and minerals
  • You may adopt ayurveda for a healthy lifestyle
  • Drink sweet Lauki juice daily in the morning before breakfast to prevent heart disease.

Yoga Exercise and Practices:

Generally  engaging 15 to 60 minutes of daily modest yoga is helpful. However, in a more comprehensive yoga exercise, each session is lasted for 60-min consisting of 10-min of warm-up, 40-min of Hatha yoga practice, and 10-min of breathing exercise and relaxation. Breathing exercises (pranayama) are often very helpful for cardiovascular health. Breathing exercises remove the negative energy, toxins from our body and gives positive energy. Slow, deep and rhythmic breathing is very important. Alternate nasal breathing is very helpful. Shavasana & Yoga Nidra reduce stress and helpful for  cardiovascular health. Tadasana, Pavanmuktasana, Bhujangasana and Ardhachakrasana yoga poses are good for cardiovascular health.

  Read more: Breathing During Yoga Poses

Summary of Yoga for Cardiovascular Health:

Yoga aimed at integrating the body, mind and spirit, to achieve a state of oneness with the universe. Regular yoga practice can improve the quality of the life and reduce stress factors which induce or aggravate a plethora of deadly diseases including heart disease. No matter your physical, spiritual, or dietary background, there is a form of yoga out there for you! Commit to your practice and allow yourself time to experiment with the different yoga poses.

References:

1. T Haider, M Sharma, P Branscum, Yoga as an Alternative and Complimentary Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review, Journal of Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, January 19, 2016.

2. Streeter CC, Gerbarg PL, Saper RB, Ciraulo DA, Brown RP, Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Hypotheses. 2012 May;78(5):571-9.

3. Khobragade Y, Abas ABL, Ankur B, khobragade S. Meditation as primary intervention strategy in prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Int J Res Med Sci. 2016

4. Chu P, Gotink RA, Yeh G, Goldie S, Hunink MGM, The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology February 2016 vol. 23 no. 3 291-307

5. Exercise and Cardiovascular Health by Jonathan Myers

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