For years, yoga has been touted for its numerous health benefits, including improved strength, flexibility, balance, and mental health. However, while yoga can often be associated with images of bendy women draped in yoga gear, this ancient tradition is so much more than just stretching and headstands.
The breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation involved in a Yoga Class can lead to measurable improvements in factors connected with cardiovascular health, better sleep, and less artery-damaging inflammation. Yoga class also encourages deep, slow breathing, which helps lower blood pressure by an average of five points after a few months of regular practice, research suggests.
With stress such a huge part of our daily lives – and one of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular health, it’s no wonder so many people all around the world are turning to the mat. There’s a huge body of literature that suggest psychosocial stressors such as work and relationship issues, as well as anxiety and depression, are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
These stresses are an unavoidable part of being human but activate the body’s fight-or-flight response. This can be draining on the adrenals and put the sympathetic nervous system in overdrive, which can lead to inflammation and increased blood pressure, all of which are not great for your cardiovascular health.
Beyond off-loading stress, practicing yoga can also help lower the heart rate, making it a useful lifestyle intervention, especially for those who experience heart problems. One study has shown that blood measurements and waist circumference—a marker for heart disease—improved in middle-aged adults with metabolic syndrome who practiced yoga for three months, making it a great practice for those experiencing health issues with their heart.
While yoga class is not the sole cure for heart problems, practicing yoga while taking on advice from your health practitioner, such as a nutritious diet, will only enhance the heart of your health. The mindfulness we also cultivate during yoga class may encourage participants to engage in other habits that boost cardiovascular health, by promoting self-awareness and self-care behaviours.
All you have to do is try a few sun salutations or any flow at a good, steady pace, to realise that yoga is great at improving fitness. A beginner yoga session can burn between 180 and 460 calories depending on several factors, including the type of yoga you’re doing, the length and intensity of the class, and whether you’re male or female. Like most workouts, the amount of calories you burn depends on your intensity, however, there are many postures and flows we do that certainly increase your heart rate and boost cardiovascular endurance.
There are also yoga poses that are linked to lengthening your life span, through increasing your circulation, removing tension from the body and mind, and lengthening your spine. Mountain pose, forward fold, and half-moon pose are all great for stimulating the liver and kidneys while activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression – all of which will contribute to a longer, healthier life.
One of the best parts about yoga is that you don’t need any equipment, except for a yoga mat, so you can perform yoga class anywhere, especially at home. Establishing an independent home practice really allows you the freedom to move at your own pace and listen and respond to your body, which will help improve and deepen your yoga practice.