Yoga for Better Health
Yoga is not just a physical activity that promotes flexibility and balance — it’s a mind-body practice that also includes breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Together, these techniques can lead to immense improvements in factors connected with cardiovascular health, such as lower blood pressure, better sleep, and less inflammation. Yoga can improve blood circulation, promote strength and overall stamina, and helps the body to relax.
Yoga to Manage Stress
According to Harvard Health, when the body senses danger, it starts its fight-or-flight response. When this happens, the nervous system releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol: the heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breathing quickens, and your senses sharpen. If this kind of stress becomes chronic, research suggests it may be associated with heart-health risks — such as an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Yoga helps to relax the body and mind. Practicing deep breathing and mental focus can help offset stress symptoms. “A regular yoga practice cultivates ‘a relaxation response’, which allows you to be less reactive to stress and intense emotions,” says Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The relaxing, meditative aspect of yoga can build up your emotional resilience, helping you to stay calmer during times of stress. A study published in 2020 in Stress & Health found that yoga decreased stress reactivity in 42 participants over a period of 12 weeks.
Exercise for Heart Health
According to John Hopkins Medicine, exercise improves circulation, which often results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Certain active forms of yoga like Power Yoga or Vinyasa are considered moderate-intensity exercise. Even less vigorous forms of yoga boost muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. In a study conducted by the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, about 23,016 of 34,525 participants reported that yoga motivated them to exercise more regularly.
Yoga for Healthy Eating
What we eat not only influences our physical wellbeing but also our emotions and thoughts. With the practice of yoga, one becomes mindful of eating food that makes you feel light, energetic, and enthusiastic.
"You're more aware of the positive feelings you enjoy when you eat healthy foods and exercise,” says Dr. Khalsa. “You're also more likely to notice the negative effects of eating junk food and sitting on a couch all day." Making healthy lifestyle changes like this can help to prevent heart disease.
Yoga for Heart Health
“A large number of studies show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health,” says Hugh Calkins, M.D. , director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins. Exercises that get your heartrate pumping are essential to improving cardiovascular health. Eating healthy and managing stress are critical to overall heart health.
Beyond off-loading stress, practicing yoga may help lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate, making it a useful lifestyle intervention. One study has shown that blood measurements and waist circumference—a marker for heart disease—improved in middle-aged adults with metabolic syndrome who regularly practiced yoga for one year. Yoga also encourages deep, slow breathing, which helps lower blood pressure by an average of five points after a few months of regular practice, research suggests.
Building an exercise routine through practicing yoga is a great way to familiarize yourself with meditation through movement, which can simultaneously benefit the body and mind for better health and greater consciousness.
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