heart problems and care with yogaBy Faye Martins

Yoga is good for you, and we all know that. As a yoga teacher, you have the ability to help people deal with a lot of health problems, and heart problems are no different. According to Dr. Suzie Bertisch, a medical instructor at Harvard, the benefits of yoga for the heart are quite immense. In addition to making the body healthy, it helps to improve the symptoms of heart failure, ease palpitations, enhance the rehabilitation of the heart and reduce blood pressure.

Now, if you have someone in your class with heart problems, you need to take special considerations so that you can help them get healthy, while also not pushing their heart too much.

There are several yoga poses that should be avoided if a student has health problems.

First of all, poses with long-held inversions should be avoided, as well as poses that involve handstands. Any long-held pose that has the arm over the head should be avoided and anything that involves holding breath, or having intense breathing, must be avoided at all costs.

Some poses that should be avoided are:

  1. Extended triangle pose
  2. Low lunge
  3. High lunch, crescent variation
  4. Feathered peacock pose
  5. Upward abdominal lock
  6. Warrior I pose
  7. The handstand
  8. Full boat pose
  9. Hero pose
  10. Supported headstand
  11. Upward bow-wheel pose

In addition, unsupported inversions should not be attempted because this will put the weight of abdominal organs on the upper-half of the body, and that can put strain on the heart.

An excellent idea is to teach your students breathing practices and meditation. Along with restorative postures, they can be very effective in healing heart conditions. These exercises help to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will help to relax the mind and the body and reduce stress on the individual.

There are styles that may benefit heart tissues and some poses that are vigorous can be done as long as the stamina is built up over time. If someone is non-active and suddenly wants to do some intense yoga positions, it is in your best interest to prevent them from doing that. Students, who have problems with heat, should avoid any sort of Bikram style yoga, or hot yoga as this can put extra strain on the heart for the student.


As a teacher, the poses that you should be having your student focus on are poses that will relax the mind and the body, while also helping to expand the chest. These are poses that use the expanded chest to allow for deep breaths, which puts more oxygen into the body and helps to improve the overall flow of blood in the body. By doing this, the student will improve their heart condition and thereby be able to do more intense yoga poses without the level of risk they would have had.

If students have a heart condition, you should encourage them to speak with their doctor first to ensure that yoga will benefit them, rather than increase their risk. You want them to be healthy, and sometimes even starting slow can aggravate the heart. By getting the okay from the doctor, you are ensured that your students are going to be okay during exercises, but you are also protecting yourself if a student were ever to have a heart attack in your class.

Yoga has been proven to help people with heart conditions, and it can help your students. As long as you keep things safe, and plan out the exercises for heart condition students, everyone will have a great time getting healthy.

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