International Day of Yoga is observed on 21st June every year to make people aware of the benefits of yoga.
Yoga is long known to be more than just a stretching or breathing exercise. In reality, it improves the flexibility of muscles and joints and also increases core muscle strength. Moreover, it can also improve your stamina and help you up your physical strength to perform various other strength training exercises and aerobic activities such as jogging, running, swimming, cycling, etc. So this world yoga day, we shed light on the significance of yoga on heart health and the poses that can keep your heart healthy.
Benefits Of Yoga For The Heart
According to a study published in The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga can play a key role in keeping the heart fit and lowering the risk of heart diseases. The study indicated that in addition to keeping a person calm and more balanced, it helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases as much as conventional exercises, such as brisk walking. Here are 5 ways yoga keeps your heart healthy:
1. Helps relieve stress
Yoga can help to decrease the level of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones are known to increase the heart rate and blood pressure, which are known risk factors for heart disease.
2. Promotes good night’s sleep
As yoga relieves stress and calms your mind and body, it plays a key role in promoting sleep.It also helps your muscles to relax and improve blood circulation, thereby aiding in good night’s sleep. Experts claim that seven hours of sleep is the minimum requirement for good cardiovascular health and yoga can help you to get a sound sleep.
3. Improves blood circulation
Just like other forms of physical activity, yoga can help improve blood circulation and lower blood cholesterol level. High cholesterol level, also known as hypercholesterolemia, can put you at risk of heart attack and coronary artery diseases.
4. Helps to monitor glucose level
It is a known fact that people with diabetes are more vulnerable to heart disease. However, if you suffer from diabetes or are at risk of diabetes, gentle muscle stretches while performing yoga makes the muscles more sensitive to insulin and help control blood glucose level. This in turn can safeguard your heart from diabetes driven heart disease.
5. Acts as a great form of physical activity
Yoga can act as a perfect physical activity for people suffering from heart disease or who underwent a heart surgery. As it is less strenuous as compared to other forms of exercise, it can be a good addition to cardiac rehabilitation programs. This can help people recover from a heart attack or heart surgery in an effective manner.
Expert’s Take On Yoga And Heart Health
Dr. Vijay D’silva, Director, Medical Affairs and Critical Care, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai says, “Cardio and weight training work rev up your heart rate and build muscle mass. However, yoga, as a complementary practice, can assist in preventing or managing heart disease. A combination of adequate weight training, aerobics and yoga can work wonders in improving heart health.” He further adds that all three forms of exercise work together to keep the heart healthy and none replaces the other. It acts as a supplementary practice and should not be treated as a replacement.
Yoga asanas that can help maintain your heart health include padangusthasana (big toe pose), janu sirsasana A (head-to-knee forward bend), utthita hastapadasana (extended hands and feet pose) and setu bandha sarvangasana (bridge pose).
Padangusthasana (big toe pose): Known to be a good pose to stretch all the muscles in the body, this asana stimulates the abdominal organs and heart and also slows down the heart rate.
Janu sirsasana A: This asana stretches the entire back of the body. As the heart is brought close to gravity, the heart rate becomes slower and calmer. It is also known to calm the mind and relax all the major organs of the body.
Utthita hastapadasana (extended hands and feet pose): This pose focuses on breathing and posture and also helps calm the mind. It helps in lowering the heart rate, promoting blood circulation and improving the all-round functioning of the heart.
Setu bandha sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): This pose facilitates deep breathing, deeply opens up the chest and improves blood flow to the chest region. It also improves blood circulation to the heart region and helps control blood pressure.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are one of the leading causes of mortality in India. According to a 2018 study published in The Lancet: Global Health, cardiovascular disease contributed to around 28% cases of mortality and 14% of disability-adjusted-life years (DALYs) in India in 2016.
Not many people are aware of the fact that a very important criteria for determining one’s heart age is the level of fitness activity. And one way to prevent your risk of heart disease and keep your heart healthy is to lead an active life. To maintain optimal heart health it is important to increase muscle mass (with weight training), burn calories (with aerobic exercises) and keep the mind and body calm (with yoga). Yoga is one of the simple and effective ways to help your heart follow a healthy regimen and keep your heart healthy.
So this world yoga day, let’s pledge to stay fit and healthy by including yoga in our daily routine. Stay fit, stay healthy!
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
1. Chu P, Gotink RA, Yeh GY, Goldie SJ, Hunink MG. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2016 Feb;23(3):291-307. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25510863
2. India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative CVD Collaborators. The changing patterns of cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016. Lancet Glob Health. 2018 Dec;6(12):e1339-e1351. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30219317