Yoga for Your Heart

How is yoga great for your heart? Let me count the ways …

The practice of yoga is composed of three parts: asana (postures), pranayama (breathing) and meditation (stilling the mind). On a strictly physiological level, all three components of yoga benefit our hearts. The focus on breath and stretching pumps up the cardiovascular systems by improving circulation. Fully breathing creates a more efficient oxygen/ carbon dioxide exchange and all that wonderful O2 rejuvenates our blood. The stretching impacts not only our muscle groups, but also our major blood vessels, keeping them clear and supple.

The more freely our blood can flow, the stronger our entire cardiovascular system AND the less likely we are to suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. Meditation is also a proven tool to lower blood pressure, (See here and here.) These benefits are of particular note for us ladies given that the World Health Organization has identified heart disease and stroke as the two top leading causes of female deaths worldwide. (See here.)

In language and culture the concept of heart signifies much more than a muscle. It is colloquially the seat of our love, kindness, compassion, courage and relationships. It’s where we store our dreams, secret fears, and beloved memories. And it sits in counterpoint to our rational mind - the monkey mind.

Any meditation practice in which we engage is heart-healthy because it creates a space for heart energy to resonate. This energy is loving, peaceful, and wise. It’s within our heart space that we can tap into knowing without knowing, finding wisdom that is deeper than the anxieties and confusion of the overactive brain.

When we practice pranayama, we feed our heart space by focus on the breath, on the present moment, on a greater truth than the incessant thoughts crowding our heads. When we practice asana, we feed our hearts with patience and loving-kindness; for ourselves, our bodies and our abilities in that moment. When we practice yoga, we foster compassion, we express love, we generate heart-positive energy both within and without. How is yoga great for your heart? Let me count the ways …