Yoga for a Healthy Heart
Researchers now know that including Yoga with other lifestyle changes can prevent or correct heart problems, including hypertension and atherosclerosis. Yoga practice teaches you how to integrate Yoga exercise, breathing, and meditation techniques into your day so that you can make these important lifestyle changes. Yoga practice can make a real difference in the health of your heart by strengthening your body, teaching you how to relax mentally and physically, and showing you how to better manage stress reactions.
Common stress reactions include muscle tension (most commonly in the face, stomach, neck, shoulders, and breath), rapid heartrate, constricted breathing, and anxiety. The fastest and most effective way to reduce reaction to stress is to change your breath, and an immediate way to improve your breathing is to improve your posture. In Yoga, you learn to strengthen your back and stomach muscles so that you can sit and stand straighter; this releases pressure on your heart and lungs and allows you to breathe easier.
Yoga breathing exercises teach you how to breathe more deeply and rhythmically; this has many effects, both physiological and mental. Physiologically, you will strengthen your respiratory muscles and develop a more efficient exchange of gases. Breathing exercises cause more oxygen to be pushed through the walls of the lungs. Mentally, you will notice more concentration, willpower, and steadiness.
Yoga exercise improves the health of the entire circulatory system, beginning with the production of blood, which takes place in the marrow of the long bones in the thighs. Improving circulation in the legs by means of daily Yoga stretching exercises helps to rejuvenate the blood. Yoga exercises stretch the body's major blood vessels, keeping them free-flowing and elastic; Yoga oxygenates the blood and pushes fresh nutrients to all peripheral vessels and capillaries. Improved circulation means that your brain will receive more oxygen, improving alertness, memory, and mood; vital organs receive a steady supply of the nutrients they need for optimal functioning.
Yoga relaxation training teaches you how to relax at will, allowing your body to release muscle tension almost as it occurs. Meditation training shows you how to access your inner source of strength and personal power, creating a support system that builds confidence and self-esteem, fosters present-moment awareness, and increases self-knowledge.
The choice to practice Yoga will protect your heart as it contributes to greater general health and well-being.
Courtesy of the American Yoga Association
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