Did you know heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for adults in the United States? A healthy heart is essential for a long life. Fortunately, a review of yoga and cardiovascular disease published by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology shows that healthy heart yoga poses help strengthen your heart and lower the risk of heart disease as much as conventional exercise. Yoga does this by combining stretching, breathing and cardiovascular exercise. All three elements have positive effects on maintaining a healthy heart.
“Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional well-being,” according to Dr. Mala Cunningham, psychologist and founder of Cardiac Yoga. “Hand in hand with leading a healthy heart lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits.” According to Dr. Cunningham, yoga helps lower blood pressure, improve your heart rate, increase lung capacity and boost circulation and muscle tone.
It’s also one of the best ways to manage and reduce stress. Stress is directly correlated to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. By practicing yoga poses daily, you can drastically reduce your stress levels and maintain a healthy heart. While a 60-minute yoga class one to three times a week is recommended to see major improvements in your health, studies have shown that just 12 minutes of yoga a day is enough to reap the stress-reducing benefits.
Yoga can be less strenuous than other types of exercise, making it a good place to start if you’re not used to exercising regularly. If you already have a workout routine you’re committed to, try adding these easy healthy heart yoga poses at the end of it to stretch your way to a healthy heart. You can do these yoga poses in a slow sequence, holding each pose for one to three minutes. Or try this yoga routine by expert yogi Rodney Yee that combines them all in a 30-minute practice.
5.) Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
While the name makes this pose sound easy, it can actually be challenging to hold for more than two minutes if your spine is out of alignment. This pose is done at the beginning and often at the end of a yoga practice. It focuses on deep breathing, which reduces stress, increases lung capacity and helps regulate blood pressure. Aside from its healthy heart benefits, this pose also calms your mind, strengthens your back and stretches your knees and ankles.
If you’re a beginner, start this pose by sitting with your back against a wall for added support. You can also put a yoga block under each of your knees for added hip support.
Cross your shins, widen your knees and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold the legs in toward your torso.
Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to your upper torso, but don’t over-arch your lower back and poke your lower front ribs forward.
You can sit in this position for any length of time, but if you practice this pose regularly, be sure to alternate the cross of the legs.