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International Yoga Day 2023: Know The Relation Between Yoga And Cardiovascular Health

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New Delhi:  In today’s day and age yoga offers a universally acceptable yet a relatively mellow exercise routine which can be practiced even by the sickest of patients. It also offers numerous cardiovascular health benefits owing to which, it must be incorporated into your lifestyle to promote a healthy heart. Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques, all of which work synergistically to improve cardiovascular function.

According to Dr. Veena Nair, MPt (MSK), Certificated Yoga Teacher, Apollo Clinic, “Cardiovascular disease is commonly associated with sedentary lifestyle, improper diet and lifestyle stresses. Yoga in a healthy population helps to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as body weight, lipid profile, blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes and psychological stresses.”

Cardiovascular Benefits Of Yoga:

Dr. Rushikesh Patil who is an Interventional Cardiologist at Dr. LH Hiranandani Hospital Powai, Mumbai said, “The physical postures, called asanas, promote flexibility, strength and endurance, which are essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. These postures increase blood circulation, lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiac performance.”

“The focused breathing exercises used in yoga, such as pranayama, can help regulate heart rate, reduce stress and promote relaxation. By calming the nervous system, yoga lowers the production of stress hormones that can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases,” he further added.

Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, MD DM, FACC FSCAI FESC, Interventional Cardiologistalso listed out other ways in which yoga benefits the cardiovascular health.

  • In another study it was shown that Yoga also reduced the chronic inflammation in the body, which leads to heart attacks and strokes by causing rupture of cholesterol rich plaques.
  • The hs-CRP, a marker of chronic inflammation is lowered with yoga.
  • Recent trials involving yoga/meditation and health education decreased cardiovascular mortality by 48%.
  • Early atherosclerosis, as evidenced by Carotid Intimal-Medial Thickness (CIMT) was significantly reduced by yoga. Incidences of stress, depression were all reduced in Yoga practitioners. 
  • Smoking, as we all know, is a major cardiovascular risk factor. Smoking cessation rates improved significantly when yoga was included as a stress reliever. 

“In case of people with chronic heart disease, yoga asanas along with medicine and proper diet has shown retardation of progression and decreased need for interventional procedures, ” said Dr. Veena.

 

Practicing yoga regularly can improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, and improve cardiac output. Focused breathing exercises helps to improve heart rate and reduces stress, while the meditation aspect improves mental well-being and reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. 

How Yoga Benefits Its Practitioners:

Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati told that yogic exercises can be divided into breathing exercises, exercises for strength and balance, and Relaxation exercises and then went on to explain the benefits of each of them.

  • Breathing exercises reinforce the correct breathing techniques. These have been found to be of immense benefits in post cardiac surgery rehabilitation, heart failure and several breathing disorders. 
  • Strength and Balance exercises tone the core of the body. ‘The Plank’, an extremely popular core strengthening exercise at the gym is nothing but a yogic asana. Stretching is practiced in some form before any kind of exercise routine or running which too is inspired by yoga. Balance and core strengthening are the key ingredients for preserving mobility in old age. The falls which lead to leg fractures are one of the commonest causes of death in octogenarians and nonagenarians. Yoga preserves the balance and core strength and so minimizes these falls. 
  • Relaxation exercise, like a Shavasana is like a mindful meditation technique, where you consciously disconnect from all external stimuli and try to achieve a state of intense relaxation. This is a great stress reliever and productivity booster. Almost all professional sportsmen: from chess players to basketball players, cricketers and shooters practice some form of meditation or relaxation techniques.

However, Dr. Kaushal stated a note of caution: “Although Yoga is beneficial to the heart, it cannot be considered as an aerobic exercise. ACC Guidelines recommend 35 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise 5 days a week. So, 35 minutes of brisk walking should be combined with yoga for at least 5 days in a week for the best results. Thus, yoga is a holistic mind body exercise which has a myriad of cardiovascular benefits. It should be a part of our daily routine.”

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