The Benefits of Yoga: Heart Health


Seventeen years ago I had a conversation with my alternative medical doctor about tangible evidence that would be recognized by the medical community that alternative treatments and preventative measures actually do work.  He said, “It is coming.  I believe we will see it in our lifetime.”  Unfortunately the doctor died unexpectedly a few short months after making that comment.  However, I am beginning to see it come to pass.   Last year I participated in an “evidence based” Tai Chi class to help prevent falls in seniors.  I am reading increasing numbers of controlled medical studies that tend to support the effectiveness of alternative medical treatments and lifestyle practices.

While researching this series I have run across studies that suggest that in addition to the stretching that most people associate with yoga, there may also be heart health benefits to the practice.  I am including links to summaries and literature reviews of some of these at the bottom of this post if you want to check these out.  What they are finding in a nutshell is that:

  1. The deep breathing and mental focus of yoga practice can help reduce stress and thereby reducing the accompanying physical effects of stress such as  narrowing of arteries and elevated blood pressure.
  2. Yoga may help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate.
  3. Yoga may help some people stop smoking which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
  4. Yoga combines physical activity, breathing, and meditation, which have each been shown to  positively affect cardiovascular risk factors.

Yoga however does not count toward the recommended amount of “moderate to vigorous exercise”  for heart health.  There are studies that are examining this, so we will see where they lead.  I do both, practicing yoga as well as walking up and down the hills in my neighborhood.

Yoga is included in the Ornish program to reverse heart disease.  It will be interesting to follow as medical science finally “discovers” what yogis have known all along.

Resources:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_heart/move_more/the-yoga-heart-connection

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-a-stretch-yogas-benefits-may-extend-to-the-heart-201504157868

http://blogs.webmd.com/heart-disease/2015/01/yoga-for-heart-health.html

https://www.ornish.com/

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