Yoga is packed with benefits for overall health — including your heart’s health. Taking longer, smoother and more controlled breaths can help lower blood pressure, calm the nervous system and even relieve stress. This makes yoga a great practice for those with cardiovascular disease or who have experienced a cardiac event like a heart attack.
According to a review of studies published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who took yoga classes saw improvements in a number of factors that affect heart disease risk. They lost an average of five pounds, decreased their blood pressure by five points and lowered their levels of harmful LDL cholesterol by 12 points.
There are plenty of heart-healthy poses in yoga, according to Jenny Driessen, a yoga instructor with the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital.
“To invert — or position yourself with your head below your heart — can promote blood flow and calm the mind,” she says.
There are several restorative poses that increase blood circulation in a gentle way, such as downward-facing dog, standing forward folds, legs up the wall, and happy baby.
Then, there are more intense, strengthening inversions — handstands, forearm stands and crow pose — that require supporting your body weight on either your hands or forearms.
These postures require — and build — a lot of body strength and endurance. Both the restorative and strengthening inversions benefit the heart and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Yoga means to yoke, or unite,” Driessen says. “It nurtures the heart, as well as the mind, body and soul. It is more than exercise. It is a way of life that cultivates mindfulness, health and well-being.”
Sharp HealthCare offers yoga classes around San Diego County. Find an upcoming class and register online.