Heart Disease
36 Case Studies
22 Member Stories
96 Research

Yoga is a promising technique to control cardiovascular disease for a healthy heart. Yoga is a mind-body action that involves moving through a set of body asanas and breathing exercises that improve strength, flexibility, balance, and comfort. 

What is heart disease?

The term "heart disease" is often used interchangeably with the term "cardiovascular disease." The cardiovascular disease normally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels which may result in a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, like those that affect your heart muscle, valves or rhythm, are also considered forms of cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease describes a selection of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases beneath the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you are born with (congenital heart defects), amongst others.

Recent data suggest that cardiovascular diseases are a result of unfavorable lifestyle trends promoting weight gain that leads to increased CVD risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia mental stress, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.[1, 2]  Improved preventive strategies like yoga, exercise, and lifestyle modification can help reduce the burden of disease. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise & meditation. 

The regular practice of yoga can have a significant positive effect on general as well as the cardiovascular health of individuals. Numerous studies have established the benefits of yoga for heart health, primarily on hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity which are the leading risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases.

See: Ashwagandha for sleep before bed

How does yoga therapy help heart disease?

According to a 2013 research study, the heart is a dynamic tissue that works continuously by changing its electrophysiological and mechanical properties in response to autonomic nervous system modulation. Yoga may be utilized as an adjunct to traditional treatments, and might also have a selection of other desirable effects in overall health and wellbeing, such as musculoskeletal, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease Yoga may be taught individually or in group classes and tailored to the needs and preferences of different groups and individuals. When yoga is utilized to assist people in treatment or recovery from injury, illness, or disability, such as mental health issues, it is often referred to as yoga therapy [1] 

Numerous studies have demonstrated that heart rhythm is regulated either sympathetically or parasympathetically (vagally). When an individual is placed under stressful situations it causes an alteration in the rhythms that can lead to cardiovascular complications.   

Yoga with all its three components - asana, pranayama, and meditation - minimize autonomic and inflammatory responses by decreasing stressors that activate immune and endocrine pathways. 

The practice of the different arms of yoga alone or in combination has benefitted patients with CVD. It is also known to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body and found to lower cortisol levels that have been found to be associated with cardiovascular diseases, obesity and the development of diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension and acceleration of atherosclerosis.

See: Pranayama breathing exercises & poses

Which Yoga is best for heart patients?

Performing many different yoga postures gently stretches and stretches muscles. This helps them become more sensitive to insulin, which is essential for controlling blood glucose. Deep breathing can help lower blood pressure. Mind-calming meditation, another vital part of yoga, quiets the nervous system and alleviates stress. All these improvements can help prevent cardiovascular disease, and can certainly help people with cardiovascular issues. The following list of Yoga Poses may help alleviate heart problems/CVD:

1. Palm Tree - Stand erect with your hands above your head, and fingers interlocked with palms facing the sky. Keep your feet parallel to each other maintaining a one-foot distance between them. Retain the position and hold your breath for six seconds.

Benefits - Provide good stretch to the arms, chest, abdomen, spine, and legs.

2. Triangle Pose-  Stand straight with the legs at least 3 feet apart, then slowly tilt your torso or the left hip down towards your foot. Inhale and slide both arms to the left and parallel to the floor. The pose looks symmetrical with one hand and foot on the ground while the other in the air. 

Benefits- It promotes blood circulation throughout the body, and releases the tension in the legs, hips, groins, shoulders, chest, and spine. It also helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

3. Balancing Half Moon- Stand straight with your legs 1 foot apart and slowly bend towards your right side, with your right hand approaching towards the ground. Simultaneously bring your left leg parallel towards the ground and your left arm up in the air, while keeping your right heel and right arm firm and steady touching the ground to complete the pose.

Benefits: It’s a yoga pose for blood pressure that boosts circulation in the body, helps in anxiety and high blood pressure.

4. Downward Facing Dog- lie down in a prone position, with your arms sliding on the ground above your head palms facing down, then slowly lift your torso upwards towards the ceiling, while applying pressure with your arms against the ground. Keep your feet and palms flattened on the ground while bringing your hips upwards as much as you can. Benefits: Promotes blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, releases any tension in your neck and chest, opens the thoracic cavity and promotes good heart health.

5. Seated Forward Bend- It's a seated forward bending asana, where you sit comfortably on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and legs spread towards your front parallel to each other. Take a deep breath, and bow down with your arms touching your toes, feet or ankles. Elongate your spine as much as you can and try to bring your benefits: Promotes blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, releases any tension in your neck and chest, opens the thoracic cavity and promotes good heart health.

6. Reclining Bound Angle-  Lie on your supine position, with your arms open. Bring both your legs together towards your pelvic region with both your feet facing each other in a lotus shape. 

Benefits: Increases blood circulation in the lower abdomen, calms the nervous system, and reduces stress.

7. Reclining Hero's Pose- Kneel down on the floor. Make sure your knees are placed directly under your hips. Let your hands rest on your knees.ensure that your toes are pointing outwards and back. Exhale and lean backward by placing your hands on your sides, and gently keep leaning until your backrests completely on the floor. Then, shift the weight of your body on your elbows. Hold this position for about 2-3 minutes. 

Benefits: It helps relieve Headache, High blood pressure, insomnia, and varicose veins. 

8. Camel Pose- it is a kneeling back-bending asana, that involves kneeling down on your yoga mat with your legs hip-width apart. Grab your heels with both your arms by reaching backward. Inhale, lean backward, and open your ribcage. Keep your chest uplifted, core actively engaged, chin tucked towards the chest. The completed pose looks like a D-shape.

Benefits- It is one of the excellent chest-opening postures, that helps regulate blood pressure by enhancing the blood circulation in the body, stretches the muscles of the chest, and fosters a healthy heart.

9. Locust Pose- Lie on your stomach (prone position), with legs stretched full length and toes pointing outwards. Rest your arms by the sides. Close your eyes, inhale and raise your head to look forward. while exhaling, lift your chest and arms behind your back toward your feet, on top of your body. Lift your upper spine and your inner thighs to lift your legs up toward the ceiling. Your total body weight should rest on your lower ribs, belly, and front pelvis.

Benefits: It helps maintain good cardiovascular health, reduces the pressure on the cardiovascular system and helps fight high cholesterol, stroke, and heart attack

In addition to the above-mentioned asanas of yoga for healthy heart, some other poses that may benefit an individual with heart disease include Cobra and Bridge Pose, Child's Pose, Full or Half Bow Pose, Fish Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Extended Side Angle, Mountain Pose, and Pigeon Pose.

See: Introduction to Yoga Asanas and health benefits

Scientific Studies in Yoga for heart disease

There are many studies, but this a good example. Beneficial Effects of Yoga Lifestyle on Reversibility of Ischaemic Heart Disease: Caring Heart Project of International Board of Yoga.[4].

A prospective, controlled, open trial study included 113 patients who were suffering from coronary artery disease patients. These patients were divided into two groups -

Group one- Included 71 patients who were given a family-based Yoga intervention Program which included, dietary modifications, control of risk factors, and stress management for a period of one year.

Group two - (n=42) were studied as the control group.

All the patients were clinically assessed for biochemical parameters, psychological parameters, stress myocardial perfusion and function studies and coronary angiography, at baseline, at frequent intervals and at the end of one year.


After one year of the yoga training program, it was found that yoga-based lifestyle interventions can help reverse heart disease by promoting the regression of coronary lesions and improving myocardial perfusion. The results were found to be statistically significant when compared to the control group in parameters like serum total cholesterol, serum LDL cholesterol, regression of the disease, and the arrest of progression.


See: How long does it take to reduce cholesterol

Summary

Practicing yoga has become a useful lifestyle intervention because yoga helps in maintaining a healthy heart by regulating high blood pressure, normalizing blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate.  Yoga can be designed to each individual based on their capacity, fitness, and energy levels of those participating in it which can be valuable to many, but especially to people with cardiovascular disease who may be weaker and more easily fatigued. Yoga is beneficial both as a treatment used alone and in combination with conventional treatment and as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease. Yoga for a healthy heart is easy to inculcate, learn, cost-effective, and has minimal side effects.

See: Cat and Cow Pose for Heart Health

References

1. Pullen PR, Seffens WS, Thompson WR. Yoga for Heart Failure: A Review and Future Research. Int J Yoga. 2018;11(2):91–98. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_24_17

2. Manchanda SC. Yoga--a promising technique to control cardiovascular disease. Indian Heart J. 2014;66(5):487–489. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2014.08.013

3. Hemant Boolani, Namratha Reddy BS, Donita Atkins RN and Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy. Healing the Heart: Can Yoga be the Missing Piece that Completes the Puzzle in Modern Medicine? Boolani et al., J Yoga Phys Ther 2013, 3:4.

4. Yogendra J1, Yogendra HJ, Ambardekar S, Lele RD, Shetty S, Dave M, Husein N. Beneficial Effects of Yoga Lifestyle on Reversibility of Ischaemic Heart Disease: Caring Heart Project of International Board of Yoga.J Assoc Physicians India. 2004 Apr;52:283-9.

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