5 of Yoga’s Heart Benefits
Yoga’s Heart benefits are rather robust, ranging from increased circulatory function to decreased heart rate, to reduced cortisol levels in the bloodstream. Considering modern western yoga’s intensity, I think it is quite obvious that the longer duration vinyasa classes can have aerobic component to them.
Cardio-vascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 Americans, making it the most deadly disease in the United States. 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. Coronary Artery disease is the most deadly disease in the world.
Breathing through the nose helps to strengthen heart tissue, bronchial tubes, lung tissue, and the valves of the heart. Check out my previous article on breathing through the nose.
1. Cortisol (Stress) Regulation
“Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress. Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis,” said Curtis. (PsychCentral) Studies differ in talking about the role of yoga in regulating cortisol, but all agree that it helps with the regulation of stress hormones. It also helps in the way that stress is perceived having drastic effects on how stress is processed by the body. Yoga essentially helps these circulatory functions to achieve higher levels of function by increasing flow.
“Cortisol and the stress response have known deleterious effects on the immune system. High levels of perceived stress and increases in cortisol have been found to lengthen wound-healing time in healthy, male adults.”
2. Lower Blood Pressure
“Elevated blood pressure is a powerful predictor of congestive heart failure and other Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) outcomes” (Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research). Plaque builds up in the walls of arteries and makes it harder for blood to flow. Yoga helps to relieve this by increasing circulatory function through purifying the blood stream through oxygenation, which also helps with metabolism. Hypertension is one of the leading causes of stroke, which yoga has been clinically shown to reduce.
“Yogic practices significantly reduced systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and orthostatic tolerance.”
3. Improved Circulation
Circulation of hormones and various chemical messengers throughout the body is necessary for new tissue growth, tissue repair, and anti-inflammatory disease prevention. Myokines are excreted during muscle contractions, which could be a major reason why the increased duration of stretches is so beneficial for healing. During yoga, joints are used in full range of motion and articulation helping to soak them in new oxygen, blood, and nutrients, assisting with osteoporosis and arthritis.
“Yoga increases blood flow and levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells which allows for more oxygen to reach the body cells, enhancing their function.”
4. Lowering Cholesterol
Yoga helps to control cholesterol and hypertension. The relationship between the growth of plaque within arteries is still being explore in conjunction with yogic exercises, but several clinical studies have shown that yogic exercises reduce the speed at which the plaque builds-up, a process known as atherosclerosis.
5. Improved Heart Rate Variability
“There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress flexibly.” One of yoga’s heart benefits is the ability to perceive stress differently. This affects the entire hormone system, including the stress response system. We are continuing to learn more about how yoga benefits our bodies in this way.
5 of the Best Foods for Heart Health
- Dark Chocolate
- Broccoli, Spinach, and Kale
Quotes about Yoga’s Heart Benefits
American Heart Association
“The more energy you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” she said. “After 12 weeks, you may see a dramatic increase in exercise functionality, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels may decrease.”
American Osteopathic Association
“Between lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and lowering bad cholesterol, it’s no wonder that yoga helps to lower a person’s risk of heart disease.”
“Your heart beats approximately 60-80 times per minute at rest.
100,000 times a day.
more than 30 million times per year.
and about 2.5 billion times in a 70-year lifetime!”