By Faye Martins
Over the past decade, Yoga has steadily gained favor with medical professionals as a complement to standard health care. Researchers say that roughly 85 percent of all illnesses have an emotional component. What better to address physical and mental health than this ancient healing art?
Evidenced by the old saying “as above, so below; as within, so without,” there is no part of our anatomy that operates independently. Health and well-being reflect the conditions of the mind, body and spirit. Anything we do to improve one of these areas benefits the body as a whole. A good example of this is the circulatory system.
Yoga improves the flow of blood and oxygen through the body, reducing blood pressure and slowing down pulse rate and respiration. As a result, the heart is stronger, the body is better able to fight off diseases and metabolism stabilizes. Yoga also reduces stress and anxiety, emotions that affect physical health and lead to the classic “fight or flight” reaction in the body.
According to the American Heart Association, there is a distinct relationship between cardiovascular death and the autonomic nervous system. This is represented by heart rate variability, a measurement of the length of intervals between heartbeats. In 2010, Natural News.com published an article confirming that Yoga not only has positive effects on pulse rate, but it also improves heart rate variability, another gauge for measuring a healthy heart.
Yoga practices that help to lower the heart rate and improve cardiovascular health fall into three major categories:
• Yogic breathing techniques regulate heart rhythm and help to move oxygen through the body. Researchers say modulated breathing reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks over time.
• Specific Yoga postures: side bends to release energetic blockages; back bends to open the chest; spine-lengthening poses to reduce compression on the lungs and heart; corpse pose for relaxation. Inversions potentially improve circulation and rest the heart muscle but may be contraindicated in people who have high blood pressure.
• Meditation has a proven reputation for getting rid of negative emotions and calming the mind. Some studies suggest that it lowers blood pressure, reduced inflammation and gets rid of fat in the arteries, too.
Most people now accept Yoga’s ability to support good cardiovascular health. According to Dr. Dean Ornish, there is evidence to support its ability, when combined with diet and other healthy living rituals, to also reverse the effects of heart disease. That is good news.
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