Thinking of exercise for heart health may conjure up images of a sweaty aerobics class or several laps around the track. But new research is showing us that heart-healthy routines may be just a bit more relaxing than we once thought. The CDC reports that 1 in 3 deaths each year in the U.S. is caused by heart disease and stroke, but 200,000 of these deaths can be prevented through healthy habits like more physical activity.
Ancient, Yet Relevant
Anyone who has taken part in just one yoga class knows this ancient practice is different than traditional cardio workouts. The combination of focused breathing, meditation, and specific poses works to stretch the muscles, relax the mind, and encourage better posture. Previous studies have shown a positive impact on flexibility and strength, and now we have new hope for yoga and its connection to a happy, healthier heart.
The blog post titled Yoga for Heart Health? at WebMD recently referenced a meta-analysis conducted in which yoga was compared to no exercise at all and more aerobic exercise. When compared to non-exercisers, yoga produced improvements in cardiac risk factors, and yogis lost weight while lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol. When comparing yoga to aerobic-type exercises, the differences were absent.
Positive research is not limited to this particular study; abundant research exists which supports yoga’s great effects on the heart. Try these poses for heart health, remembering to breathe deeply:
- Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana): Stand with feet hip-width apart and place hands on hips. Inhale, then fold forward to hold onto your big toes. Draw belly in and lift rear bones towards the sky. Allow neck and head to hang down. If hamstrings become tight, bend knees slightly. Draw torso toward the legs if you are able. Hold 5 to 10 breath cycles.
- Easy Pose: Sit comfortably, cross-legged with your right shin in front of your left. Rest hands with palms facing up on your knees and close your eyes while inhaling at two and exhaling at four.
- Bridge Pose: Lie on your back while bending your knees, keeping feet on the floor and hip-width apart. Bring feet as close to your back as you are able, then inhale while you press feet and arms into the floor and lift hips upward. Squeeze glute muscles. Bring hands together and press into the floor with arms and feet. Push the front of your legs toward the sky, hold for five breaths, and exhale.
If Americans really can prevent heart-disease related deaths by living more active lives, we need to get moving more often and more regularly. It does not take a lot of time-start by practicing yoga 20 minutes a day and work your way up. Try a local class or just pop in a DVD at do a quick routine at home. Now get out that mat, stretch out those muscles, and get to posing. Your happy heart will thank you!