This week’s featured article is brought to you by one of our yoga instructors and acupuncturist, Shayan Landrum. In the spirit of American Heart Month, Shayan shares her expertise in yoga and its benefits for the heart.
Yoga For The Heart
“The very presence of your breath and of your body is one of the most astonishing things in the universe, and it offers the continual opportunity to start over. This awareness allows us to start the entire project of our life over, to reinitiate all the threads of our thought, grounding it all in the immediate experience of the body. What an incredible relief it is to understand that the ultimate place of pilgrimage is right in the center of our very own heart.” –Richard Freeman
Hearts are powerful, amazing organs. The heart is our core, circulating fresh oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies, helping us to think, move, and carry on all of our physiological functions. Every part of our being depends upon the health of our heart. Even emotionally, we refer to the heart as our center of feeling.
Because of its supreme importance, an ill heart is an ill body, and when the heart fails, nothing else can function. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S. February is American Heart Month, and so it is the perfect time to consider how our daily habits impact our hearts, and to reflect on improvements we could make to improve the heart and overall wellbeing. Healthy habits make for healthy people. Some of the most important health habits to cultivate are proper nutrition, physical activity, stress-reducing behaviors, positive relationships, and positive mental attitudes.
Yoga is a powerful tool in maintaining or regaining health. Yoga encourages us to move, breathe, and to strengthen our muscles and our cardiovascular system. It is a safe way to introduce physical activity, while reducing stress, and promoting positive thinking. As we begin to feel better about ourselves, there is a contagious effect and we find it easier to make healthier choices in other aspects of our lives as well.
For those of us who already have healthy hearts, yoga can help us maintain good health and prevent diseases related to lifestyle choices. For those who already have a heart condition, yoga is an excellent tool on the path to recovery. Patients who undergo cardiac procedures often have to overcome multiple challenges, including physical scarring, a loss of vitality, and the emotional shock of being cardiac patients now and into the future. Yoga is a powerful, safe, and effective way for heart patients to recover their strength and wellbeing. Practicing yoga can help build muscle, flexibility, confidence, and improve general wellness.
Yoga practice can increase the heart rate when postures are done in a rhythmic, uninterrupted flow. As we become more familiar with the poses, increase flexibility, and gain strength, we become more capable of maintaining a flow throughout the practice, and the heart rate can be safely elevated for a prolonged period of time.
Yoga has also been proven to have significant positive effects on the heart, particularly by increasing Heart Rate Variability. Numerous studies have shown that yoga—even very gentle, relaxing yoga—so powerfully impacts the nervous system that HRV increases, which is known to improve heart function and longevity.
Practicing yoga can help to reduce stress, improve flexibility, encourage body awareness, and promote relaxation. Yoga postures can be tailored to be more challenging for the physically fit and can also be modified to be very gentle and restorative. With continued attendance at a yoga class, many students learn to comfortably develop a basic yoga practice at home, so that yoga can become a long-term partner in health, recovery, and prevention of heart disease.
Celebrate American Heart Month by treating yourself to a gentle, therapeutic yoga class, and experience the profound effect on body and mind.