Benefits of yoga for a healthy heart

The Asian Age.  | Arpita Halder

Life, Health

Experts explain how pumping up with cardio and cooling down with yoga provides tripartite heart benefits.

As yoga is less strenuous, it can be a good addition to cardiac rehabilitation, which can help people recover from a heart attack or heart surgery. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

According to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Yoga helps lower the risk of heart diseases as much as that of conventional exercises such as brisk walking and skipping.

Besides, Yoga, also known to help one feel calmer and more balanced has long been known as more than just a stretch or breath, as it assists in the improvement of flexibility in the joints and increases core muscle strength. This, in turn, improves one’s capacity of performing aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, running, cycling, etc.

Physical activity is of great importance in maintaining one's cardiovascular health as one's fitness level is an important criterion in determining one's heart age. Maintaining optimal heart health involves:

  • Increasing muscle mass by weight training on alternate days.
  • Burning calories with aerobic exercises.
  • Keeping the mind and body supple with yoga.

“While cardio and weight training work to rev up your heart rate and build muscle mass, yoga, as a complementary practice can assist in preventing or managing heart disease. A combination of adequate weight training, aerobics, and yoga work wonders in improving one’s heart health,” says Dr Vijay D’silva, Director- Medical Affairs and Critical Care, Asian Heart Institute.

“All three go together and one cannot replace the other. Yoga helps as a supplementary practice and isn’t a replacement,” he adds. The all-round benefits of yoga come as no surprise since they have long been suspected, dating back down to the pre-Vedic Indian traditions composed from around 1900BC.

The impact of yoga has since conquered the world with millions of people rolling out their mats to celebrate a tradition that was once the preserve of Hindu holy men but is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Various Yoga asanas such as the Janu Sirsasana a (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend), the Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose), the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) and  Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) assist majorly in maintaining one's heart health.

Dr Santoshkumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist of the Asian Heart Institute shares, “For those who do active yoga such as hatha yoga- the split in regimes can be 40% yoga and 30% of aerobics and weight training, while for those who perform simple yoga techniques, the split can be 30% for yoga and 35% of the other two regimes.”

This International Yoga Day, let’s look at a few ways yoga’s benefits can now extend to one’s heart:

It decreases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that cause increased heart rate and blood pressure which is detrimental to the heart.

Performing Yoga regularly helps decrease blood cholesterol counts.

Yoga helps your muscles relax assisting one in acquiring sound sleep, thus enabling 7 hours of sleep - that being the minimum requirement for good cardiovascular health.

As yoga is less strenuous, it can be a good addition to cardiac rehabilitation, which can help people recover from a heart attack or heart surgery.

The Framingham Study was one of the first pieces of evidence that showed people with diabetes are more vulnerable to be diagnosed with heart disease. Gentle muscle stretches while performing yoga makes the muscles more sensitive to insulin, helping control blood sugar, thus safeguarding your heart from diabetes driven heart disease.

In the case of smokers, considering the fact that smoking is one of the biggest factors of coronary artery disease, yoga is instrumental in helping smokers quit smoking.