Dr Rajesh K. Mishra, Ayurveda and Yoga Master
YOGA FOR HEART CARE
Almost every one of us is aware of what yoga is. Yoga practice is a holistic approach for not only for physical health but also for psychological and spiritual aspects as well. Therefore Yoga for Heart care is important.
The term “heart disease” encompasses several different kinds of problems with the heart. These issues range from a simple plaque formation in heart vessels to bacterial infections and inflammations. In general and the most common of the heart issue happens due to plaque formation in blood vessels of heart which obstructs the normal blood supply.
The human heart is continuous supplies blood to the whole body and its own cells. Sometimes, cholesterol or blood cells form a ‘clot’ in vessels. These clots are named as plaque which reduces the diameter of the vessel and causes a blockage in normal blood flow. Thus, a person experiences a stroke or cardiac arrest. If prolonged and not treated in time, this cardiac arrest or heart attack can cause the death of the patient.
WHAT STATISTICS SAY?
Heart diseases are one of the leading causes of death over the globe affecting both men and women. In the United States, one in every 4 death is because of heart disease. Every year more than 735,000 American people have a cardiac arrest. The statics are different and vary in different ethnicities. 
Talking about German, about 85% of their population is provided with social health care insurance. Germany is one of the most affected nations from heart diseases, being ranked 8th in the global scale. More than 310 people of 100,000 people die every year due to o heart disease.
Germany has one of the developed countries with top health care facilities put the link of that data. Several steps have been taken by the health care providers to combat this disease. However, more than the health care providers, we ourselves should be aware of heart disease risk and how to prevent it.
Like many other diseases, heart disease is somehow linked to our diet and our lifestyle choices. Therefore, it’s better to be proactive and take steps to avoid heart disease as much as possible. For instance, having a healthy lifestyle and practising exercise and especially yoga can help you a lot to maintain your heart health.
So here in this article, you’ll get to know what heart disease is and how yoga and other crucial factors can help us maintain good heart health.
THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE
The symptoms of every heart disease are distinct and different. However, if we talk about heart attack here, the symptoms are as follow:
- Severe chest pain and discomfort
- Pain spreads to arms, upper stomach, back and neck.
- Heavy and short breathing
- Cold sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
WHAT CAUSES A HEART DISEASE?
Heart disease or the heart attack are caused by or are attributed to some general factors such as:
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Sluggish lifestyle
- Smoking, drugs and alcohol
THE RISK FACTORS
There are certain factors which increase your risks of getting a heart attack or other heart disease:
- Imbalanced diet (too much oily and junk food)
- Lack of physical activity and sluggishness
- Alcohol and drugs
- Stress, depression and anxiety
- Diabetes (due to high blood glucose levels)
TREATMENT OR PREVENTION?
A part from the “treatment” of heart diseases, there is much more we can do to prevent it at first. The treatment of heart disease involves certain medications, and surgery is the last option to remove the plaque from heart vessels and to resume the heart function. However, as they say ‘prevention is better than cure’. Let’s focus on what possible measures can we take to prevent the heart disease.
YOGA FOR HEART CARE
In addition to its spiritual aspects, yoga is great for maintaining good health.
Yogic techniques help in relieving stress and anxiety. Stress is a significant factor which increases the risks of getting a heart attack. Moreover, these techniques help to normalize the blood pressure and maintain a healthy state of the person.
Yoga teaches to be aware of ourselves, our emotional, physical and mental health and also make us aware of our environment. The physical techniques- asanas of yoga along with it philosophical understanding helps a person to achieve the state of health.
Yoga also undertakes the concept of sattvic diet. This kind of diet is based on various nuts, legume and seasonal fruits etc. thus, by maintaining a healthy and balanced diet plan, one can prevent the heart diseases to a great extent. 
A large number of studies suggest that yoga has significant benefits for cardiovascular health (cardiovascular: related to heart and vessels).
There has been as major shift in last 5 years, that now a great number of medical professionals recognize the beneficial aspects of yoga for heart health.” –says Hugh Calkins, M.D. at John Hopkins
I. YOGA- A MIND BODY ACTIVITY
Yoga involves a number of postures (asana) and breathing practices (pranayama) which improve strength, flexibility, develop emotional bivalence and relaxed the nerves.
There are various different formats such as hatha yoga, raja yoga, ashtanga yoga and many more which emphasize on different aspects of relieving stress, creating emotional concord and meditation to clear the mind and relieve stress.
ll. YOGA TO RELIVE STRESS
Stress and anxiety is major contributor in heart disease. Stress initiates physical effects followed by the release of stress hormones- adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones narrow the arteries and increase blood pressure. The result? Cardiac arrest or stroke.
Yogic techniques focus on relieving that stress and thereby helpful in reducing the risks of cardiac diseases.
lll. YOGA A GREAT HEART BOOSTER
In addition to relieving stress, yogic techniques help to lower the blood cholesterol, blood glucose levels and maintain the normal blood pressure as well.
Several studies prove these yogic potentials to lower and maintain the blood pressure. One of the studies suggests that practising slow-paced yoga at least twice a week is effective for improving arterial blockage.
IV. YOGA AS PHYSICAL EXERCISE
The asanas involved in yoga are useful in terms of improving muscular strength and flexibility. The aerobic (breathing) practices are significant to maintain a normal heartbeat and blood flow. A sluggish lifestyle contributes as great risk factor for getting heart disease. Thus, practising yoga and its physical practices is great for the heart and overall health. 
Yoga is a way to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. the benefits are more obvious when you routinely practice yoga.
BENEFITS OF YOGA:
1. YOGIC ASANAS FOR HEART HEALTH
The yoga sutras of Patanjali define yogasana as
“Sthiram sukham aasanam “,
This means ‘the position which is comfortable and steady’. So yogasana involves sitting in a comforting and relaxed state and perform asana and pranayama. Yogasana improves and regulates the steady rate of respiration and improves the metabolic rate. Thus, yogasana effectively benefits the physical health of a practitioner.
Here are some useful asanas for heart health:
I. Tadasana (Palm Tree Pose)
This yoga asana helps soothing, calming and balancing the emotional state of mind. This very stress-relieving effects of tree pose help maintain the heartbeat rate and thus useful for heart health.
II. Trikonasana (Triangle pose)
This yoga posture is significant and unique for heart health. Practising this asana is heart-opening and quiet a vital cardiovascular exercise. Deep rhythmic breathing expands the chest and boosts the stamina.
III. Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)
This yoga asana increases the heartbeat and respiration rate. Both these factors improve heart stamina.
IV. Marjariasana (Cat pose)
This yoga asana is usually performed after the chair pose. This is effective and it brings calmness and settles the heart rate making it softer, flexible and rhythmic.
V. Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)
Practising this yoga asana helps one to feel relaxed, expand the chest volume and creates space. Moreover, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is designed to deal with relaxed conditions. Thus, this asana helps you to feel relaxed, restful and revitalize the body energy.
Pranayama means expansion of prana/ Vital force/ life force. Breathing is tools for Pranayama. It is considered deep breathing practices and is significant both for the initial recovery of a heart patient and in the subsequent rehabilitation and rejuvenation period. Breathing should be relaxing and deep so as to stabilize the nerves and heart rate. And it should be neutral and quite. Pranayama practise improves cardiac function, enhances oxygen retention helps to repair the caller damage and also gives mental stability.
I. Nadi Sodhana Pranayama:
2. Bhramari Pranayama:
The benefits of regular pranayama practice are:
- Improve blood circulation
- Better digestion
- Metal stability
- Stress relief
- Rejuvenate heart functioning
3. YOGA NIDRA
Yoga Nidra is the relaxed state of complete relaxation where you become increasing aware of the inner conscious. This is quite a guided meditation.
Regular practice of yoga Nidra is effective for improving endocrine function. This increases the endogenous dopamine in brain. Dopamine release induces a relaxed state of mind. It improves heart beat and blood flow to all parts of the brain. Thus, reduces the tension and brings emotional stability. This relaxation and emotional stability ensure stable heart functioning.
Dr. Richrd Millar, the pioneer of yoga as therapy has used Yoga Nidra for the rehabilitation of soldiers in pain. he worked on yoga Nidra to help the soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after their return from war zones. Based on the effectiveness of yoga Nidra from the psychological point of health, the yoga Nidra is now regarded as complementary alternative medicine (CAM) for dealing with chronic pain in the US. 
Thus, we can infer that yoga Nidra is effective for relieving psychological stress and will be effective for preventing heart disease.
WHAT RESEARCH SAYS?
According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.3% of US adult population stepped onto the yoga mat in the year 2017. 
A large number of studies reveal and recognize the potential benefits of yoga for preventing heart health. This is probably because of the stress-relieving impacts of yogic techniques. The physical technique, breathing practices and meditation for stress relieving all are significant to prevent the heart disease.
Research published in the European Journal Of Preventive Cardiology suggests that yoga significantly lowers the risks of cardiac diseases compared to not performing any physical exercise.
One of the studies performed to evaluate the effectiveness of yoga for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. The researchers found that yoga is effective for lowering the resting heart rate (4.16%), systolic (2.26%), diastolic (1.49%), and mean arterial blood pressure (2.37%) compared to those who did not perform yoga. 
SOME MORE TIPS FOR HEALTHY HEART
There are some of the risk factors which you cannot control such as age and genetic factors. On the other hand, many of these are manageable and can be prevented. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a key to prevent heart disease and many others. Here are some of these:
I. Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure And Blood Cholesterol Level:
At first, you must be aware of normal blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. The normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg. The cholesterol levels may vary. Keep in mind that high blood pressure or high cholesterol means you are putting yourself at high risk of getting cardiac disease.
II. Manage Stress And Anxiety:
We are living in a fast world. Trying to keep pace with is making us stressed, and depressed that we have no time for ourselves. In order to have a healthy heart and body, managing this stress is very crucial. Yoga is the way to be a part of some asana or some breathing practice where you actually take out some time for yourself and get relief of the emotional rollercoaster and stress. Moreover, try some other ways to get rid of that ammonal stress such as going for a trip, moving and sports etc.
III. A Healthy Balanced Diet:
As suggested earlier, yogic practice emphasize on the sattvic diet. Similarly, having a balance of what you eat is the key to a healthy body and heart. Food rich in unsaturated fatty acids and salts is not a good choice. These kinds of food increase risks of heart disease, as they increase the blood pressure and blood choleysrlol levels. So try to choose more natural and whole diet plan.
IV. An Overall Healthy Lifestyle:
If you really want to manage and lower your risks of heart diseases, go for a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet along with the routine exercise of 30-60 minutes daily is the key to heart health.
Avoid more caffeinated drinks as they increase the heartbeat. Same is the case with smoking, alcohol and drugs. Nicotine in cigarettes contracts the blood vessels and interferes with oxygen supply to body cells.
Practising yoga and opting a healthy lifestyle are significant to reduce the risks of heart disease although not completely cure it. Yoga is no doubt a holistic approach which leads us to a healthy life. Routinely performing yoga is one of the small steps that we can take to prevent and lower the risks to great extents. So, start from now. Take out some time for yourself. Be aware of what to do and what to avoid for healthy heart. Because it’s good to know!
- Watts, A. W., Rydell, S. A., Eisenberg, M. E., Laska, M. N., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2018). Yoga’s potential for promoting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among young adults: a mixed-methods study. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 15(1), 42. doi:10.1186/s12966-018-0674-4
- Divya, T. S., Vijayalakshmi, M. T., Mini, K., Asish, K., Pushpalatha, M., & Suresh, V. (2017). Cardiopulmonary and Metabolic Effects of Yoga in Healthy Volunteers. International journal of yoga, 10(3), 115–120. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.186162
- Major (Dr.) Nisha Money (2009). “Yoga Nidra (iRest): A “New Twist” on Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part I)” (PDF). 5 (4 Winter 2009): 12–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 19, 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-22.