Yoga for Your Heart…
and Other Health Benefits
Look, we know full well that Yoga has long had a new-age, touchy-feely reputation to it. But medical researchers say that yoga practitioners are really on to something. Today we want to share some of these key findings with our readers who are dealing with heart disease, back pain, high blood sugar, and more.
The practice of yoga that’s been handed down over thousands of years may seem like little more than glorified stretching. But, it holds its own against scientific research.
In fact, several studies conducted over the past two years show that yoga really packs in the health benefits. If pharmaceutical companies could find a way to patent and bottle these kinds of results, they’d be all over it!
Fortunately for you, you can enjoy the benefits of yoga at little to no cost, either through a local class or by learning a few simple poses and practicing at home.
Yoga Puts Your Heart Back on Track
Specifically, new research shows that yoga helps patients with an irregular heartbeat. The medical term is atrial fibrillation.
A-fib patients have episodes where their heart beats rapidly, sometimes causing a fluttery feeling in the chest. Other patients don’t even notice the irregular beat. But, whether you notice the symptoms or not, if you live with A-fib, you’re at higher risk of stroke and heart failure.
A-fib patients who did yoga three times a week over the course of three months cut their average number of A-fib episodes in half. That’s a huge improvement.
Yoga Can Help You
to Live Pain-Free without Drugs
You might think that aching muscles and painful joints are just a normal part of getting older, but you don’t have to accept pain into your daily routine. In the case of lower back pain, you can use yoga to find relief.
In a recently conducted study focusing on yoga and back pain, researchers found that yoga is an effective way to relieve pain especially in the lower back. Both yoga and regular stretching provided pain relief. But participants in yoga classes tended to need less pain medication for their back condition compared to people attempting to treat their pain outside of a classroom setting.
Yoga participants also experienced an improvement in function and were more likely to say their back pain was completely gone than those administering self-care.
In addition to helping heart problems and relieving back pain, yoga may also offer help to people with elevated blood-sugar levels.
Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes
After a preliminary review of 70 different studies, researchers have reason to believe that yoga may offer help for people living with elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition that is often a precursor to diabetes and that can also put you at high risk for heart disease.
Until more research can definitely establish a connection, we say that if it might help, can’t hurt, and feels good, then by all means do it!
Yoga also has a positive effect on respiration and circulation, which can improve the health of your whole body. With better circulation, your body is better able to carry oxygen to the organs that need it and to remove toxins from your system.
Heart disease and strokes are essentially circulation problems, so any improvement in circulation may help to reduce your risks of these leading killers.
Yoga may also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk or severity of depression. It can help to prevent obesity and improve flexibility. Improved flexibility is another sign that you’re protecting your heart as adults who can’t touch their toes have higher rates of heart disease.
How Yoga Works
Yoga, as a practice, has been around for thousands of years. It focuses on developing core strength and balance while working to elongate and stretch muscles, which can greatly improve flexibility, balance, and range of motion.
One of the principles of yoga is for participants to improve a little at a time and at their own pace. You don’t need to tackle convoluted poses – you can work with some of the simpler poses and movements to begin enjoying the benefits of yoga. Then, over time, you can challenge yourself at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
Another focus of yoga is controlled breathing that you connect with your movements, which has amazing physical and emotional benefits.
To start you out, try these three yoga poses meant to gently stretch your muscles, ease tension and improve balance. If you have any concerns about your ability to do any of these exercises, you should see a doctor before beginning. And if any exercise (yoga or otherwise) ever causes you pain, you should stop immediately.
Child Pose: This pose offers a great stretch for the back and is deeply relaxing. Begin by kneeling on the floor. Sit back on your heels and then fold forward so your forehead rests on the floor. Slowly reach your arms out in front of your. The farther you walk your hands forward, the bigger the stretch you’ll enjoy. Also, think about drawing your chest back toward your knees to improve the stretch. Hold the stretch for four deep breaths and then release it gently and roll back up to a kneeling position.
Sideways Bend: For this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Gently lift your arms over head and bring your palms together directly above your head. Inhale deeply, and then as you exhale, bend to one side, keeping your palms connected over your head. Hold the pose for a breath or two, and then breathing in, release the stretch and return to the center. Exhale and bend to the other side.
Cobra Pose: Lay on your stomach with your elbows tucked into your sides and your hands palm down on the floor even with your head. As you inhale, gently draw the chest and head upwards so that your head rises about twelve to eighteen inches from the floor. Keep your shoulders drawn down away from your ears and draw your shoulder blades together. Hold the pose for a breath or two and then exhale and release yourself back to the floor.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise. It’s gentle and refreshing. It encourages you to pace yourself. It feels good when you’re doing it. And, it offers tremendous health benefits. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
Try the above exercises for starters, or look for classes you can join at your local fitness club or Y. Simply Google yoga class and your zip code.