Yoga gets to the heart of the matter...

Yoga, the ancient art grouping physical, mental, and spiritual practices can be beneficial for the health of the heart, writes Dr Monik Mehta

Yoga

Our heart is one of the most vital parts of our body as it pumps blood to the entire body and ensures supply of oxygen to all parts. However, with growing health problems induced by poor lifestyle and diet, our hearts are becoming increasingly susceptible to poor functioning, including angina. It is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart and is a potential symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina is often described as squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or pain in the chest.

Chances of heart diseases increase if you have hypertension, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, habit of smoking and consuming alcohol, have a family history of heart diseases, lead a sedentary life with low physical movement, or suffer from stress or anxiety.

How yoga works on your heart

Once a mystical practice performed mainly by spiritual seekers, yoga is increasingly becoming a part of our lives along with other activities such as jogging and aerobics. The easy combination of stretching, gentle activity, breathing, and mindfulness of yoga may have benefits for people with cardiovascular disease.

Unlike other activities, yoga leads you into the movements gently by getting into the various postures during a session and exercises the muscles which, in turn, is good for the heart and blood vessels. These movements also help muscles become more sensitive to insulin, which plays an important role in controlling blood sugar. Deep-breathing exercises help slow the breathing rate — taking fewer and deeper breaths temporarily lowers blood pressure and enhances the parasympathetic activity plus acts as a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system that generates stress hormones. People with heart disease often have other health concerns, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, that limit their flexibility. Yoga takes care of that, too.

(The author is chief of cardiology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon)

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