Are you one of the many Americans worried about your heart disease risk? If so, there is legitimate cause for concern. This condition kills more people worldwide than any other.
One way you can reduce your risk is through regular exercise. However, you don’t have to train for a marathon or attend HIIT classes several days a week. Here are five ways yoga benefits your heart.
1. It Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Either one can be fatal or lead to permanent disability.
Yoga might be your ideal recovery program if you already have heart disease. It’s gentle and adaptable for all fitness levels, including those with ongoing health issues. Of course, you should check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program — but your physician might recommend this regimen.
2. It Encourages Mindfulness
Yoga is, in many ways, the ultimate mindfulness practice. You become one with the present moment by moving your body through various poses while clearing your mind and focusing on your breath. Indeed, the word “yoga” itself means “union,” and this is one interpretation.
How does mindfulness help prevent heart disease? Once you get good at the practice of being in the moment, you make better decisions.
So often, we find ourselves behaving in alignment with our thoughts. For example, you might think, “I’ve had a hard day. I deserve that doughnut.” Before you know it, you’ve consumed 300 to 400 calories in excess sugar and fat as a “reward.” Those extra pounds around your waist from doing so too often aren’t exactly the greatest prize.
Mindfulness teaches you to slow down before giving into temporary cravings for unhealthy foods, drugs or alcohol. It helps you recognize that the immediate sense of relief such dubious treats might provide is illusory and only leads to more pain and further need for escape down the line. It doesn’t punish you, saying you can never again indulge in an iced cruller. However, it does give you the necessary pause to choose your rewards wisely and train your habits in a way that aligns with the vision of yourself you want to project to the world.
Fortunately, you can squeeze your practice in anytime and anywhere that’s convenient for you — you need not join a studio. Even beginners can perform a few simple asanas upon waking up or before going to bed.
3. It Helps You Feel Connected
Loneliness can kill. Feeling isolated from others increases your risk of death from all causes — humans are social animals who don’t thrive without interaction.
Walking into the right yoga class is like entering a loving hug. You’ll find so much nurturing and acceptance among your fellow yogis. Ask one of your classmates out for tea afterward, and you could spark a lifelong friendship.
4. It Reduces Your Inflammatory Markers
Those with an autoimmune disease double their risk of cardiovascular trouble because the widespread inflammation caused by such conditions also affects the heart. Fortunately, yoga offers one way to decrease the burn.
5. It Eases Stress
Stress can kill. Prolonged tension can create changes in your neural pathways that instruct your body to keep your blood pressure high. Hello, recipe for increased stroke and heart attack risk.
Excess stress also increases your body’s production of cortisol. This hormone can prompt you to eat unhealthy foods high in fat and sugar. It does so to provide your body with the fuel it once needed to outrun hungry lions — but you don’t burn nearly as much energy trying to figure out how to pay your bills. The result is unwanted pounds that can increase your heart disease risk.
Let Yoga Help Your Heart
If you’re looking for a way to improve your cardiovascular health, this ancient practice can help. Reap the above five benefits of yoga for your heart.