Say "om" to a healthy heart!
It turns out that heart patients can enjoy the health benefits of yoga — and even prosper from them. In fact, physical activity can help lower blood sugar, and yoga, in particular, has helped people recover from cardiac episodes.
How Does Yoga Help Your Heart?
According to a study published in the Indian Health Journal, those who participated in yoga as part of their cardiac rehab programme showed significant improvements in blood flow and cholesterol levels compared to people treated via more traditional cardiac rehab routines.
What's important is choosing a yoga practice that's safe and suits your physical capabilities. This is where restorative yoga, as opposed to the more strenuous power and vinyasa yoga, come into play.
Restorative yoga is much gentler, encouraging the use of props like pillows and blankets to facilitate relaxation, thereby initiating your parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and restore" aspect of your autonomic nervous system) to stimulate your body's processes for restoration and recovery, such as digestion, sleep and tissue repair.
Where you're at in your heart health regimen will dictate the best way for you to enjoy the health benefits of yoga. According to the American Heart Association, it may be beneficial to start a yoga program as a preventative measure for those at higher risk of a heart event.
Kick-Starting Recovery with Yoga
After a cardiac event, people can use yoga to heal, especially as many may experience stress, anxiety and/or depression. The good news: Even after just one yoga class you may start to notice the calming benefits.
1. Talk to Your Physician
Some yoga poses are more strenuous than others. Before starting, it's important to talk with your doctor, whether your yoga routine is in response to a cardiac event or as a preventative measure. Be sure to note any other surgeries and physical therapies.
2. Avoid Certain Poses
Not all yoga poses are advisable for people who've experienced a heart event. According to Yoga Journal, some heart-intense poses that may need to be modified include the handstand, supported headstand, wheel and low and high lunge.
3. Allow Recovery Time
Even if you were doing headstands and were able to accommodate more flexible positions before your cardiac event, your body will be in recovery mode following one. You might be surprised at how poses that seemed easy before are now hard. Don't push it. Instead, start simply and build slowly.
Start with a mantra; then, instead of speeding through a vinyasa flow, try holding a few simple, relaxing poses. Take long, deep breaths while lying on your back with a bolster under your legs to raise them above your heart. While doing this exercise, repeat your chosen mantra in your mind and remind yourself how strong, healthy and capable you are.
5. Note Pain Points
"No pain, no gain" is not your mantra here.
During your yoga practice, record any pain points so you can let your physician know. They may need to adjust your practice accordingly. Before your heart event you may have been ultra-competitive, but now is not the time to test your limits.
6. Have Fun!
Because your focus after a cardiac event is on repairing your body, take the time to slowly relearn — or even discover for the first time — what poses bring you the most joy. Experiment with props and music, and maybe even treat yourself to a new mat. Take the time to create a space that truly speaks to you, whether that be by lighting scented candles or adding more natural light.
Keep in mind: There's a direct correlation between happiness and health, so adding joy is time well-spent. In fact, some say a positive mindset may help control your weight, lower your blood pressure, keep blood sugars healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. You may want to even start a gratitude journal to complement your practice!
Disclaimer: This content is meant for awareness and educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.