Why Science Says Yoga for Heart Disease

comeSometimes after a great yoga class, you stand up off the mat and feel…incredible. Your muscles are loose, your mind is clear, and you swear you can feel your blood coursing through your veins bringing your body all the good nutrients it craves.

Can yoga really be as good for you as it seems? Quite possibly, yes.

If you want to live a longer, healthier life, you may want to consider incorporating yoga as part of your regular routine. Science shows that a commitment to a regular yoga practice can improve flexibility, increase muscle strength, prevent injury, boost your immune system, help you sleep, and reduce stress. It may also support better cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing cardiometabolic conditions such as hypertension: recently, a study published Canadian Journal of Cardiology It’s been found that adding just 15 minutes of yoga to your workout routine can improve your blood pressure and resting heart rate—and reduce your cardiovascular risk.

How yoga improves heart health

During the three-month study, researchers wanted to determine whether adding yoga to a regular exercise routine could reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. The research team recruited 60 people previously diagnosed with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (high risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke) to participate in an exercise training program.

The participants were split into two groups: one that did 15 minutes of yoga before a 30-minute cardio session five days a week, and another that did 15 minutes of stretching before the same cardio session. The researchers then measured the participants’ blood pressure, glucose and lipid levels. After three months, both groups saw positive changes. But participants who did 15 minutes of yoga had significantly lower systolic blood pressure (more than twice as much as the stretchers), and lower resting heart rates and 10-year cardiovascular risk reductions—not seen in the stretching-only group.

Because yoga outperforms stretching

Why would there be a difference? One possibility is yoga’s focus on controlled breathing. “Slow, deep breathing helps you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates things like heart rate and blood pressure,” says Nicola Banger, PT, OCS, a physical therapist at New York Hospital for Special Surgery who often works with yogis. . “By consciously controlling your breathing during yoga, you can lower your blood pressure, resting heart rate and stress hormones.”

Others theorize that yoga stretches because it engages both your body and mind. “Yoga involves physical activity, breathing and meditation—all of which are beneficial to a person’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being,” explains Nina Moore, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Form. “Practicing yoga before aerobic activity can encourage more mental presence and physical connection with the body while regulating several systems within the body.”

In addition, engaging in mindfulness practices such as yoga encourages other healthy behaviors that support good cardiovascular health, such as eating healthy foods, getting solid sleep, and managing stress.

And if yoga isn’t your thing…

Of course, not all workouts are everyone’s cup of tea. If you’ve tried yoga and it just isn’t for you, Banger recommends doing multi-joint, full-range strength training exercises. “You can still get flexibility benefits from stretching combined with eccentric (lengthening) muscle contractions. Also, by practicing mindfulness and deep breathing, you can get the same stress relief as a yoga practice,” she says. “Ultimately, the practice you’re most likely to be consistent with and, better yet, enjoy is the one you’ll benefit from the most. .”

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