With more and more people adopting yoga as a way of life, the ancient Indian practice of physical exercise is gaining popularity across the globe. It not only works to stretch your muscles, but also boosts mental health as well as the functions of the heart, stomach and other internal organs. According to a study conducted by Harvard experts, yoga can be as effective as cycling or brisk walking in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. It has been found to be beneficial in managing and improving the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and can be a 'potentially effective therapy' for cardiovascular health.
Heart disease is a growing health concern, with many Indians suffering heart attack or stroke. Blame it on lifestyle habits and lack of physical activities, but preventive measures must be taken well ahead of time. There has been enough evidence to prove that exercise in any form is great to boost your physical and mental health and especially heart health. And for those of you who hate hitting the gym, yoga could be the best way to start.
Here are some yoga asanas that are said to boost heart health -
Trikonasana, as the name suggests, is a triangle-shaped asana, which helps in stretching the spine, stimulating spinal nerves and blood circulation.
How to do: Stand straight with your legs wide apart. Extend your arms at the shoulder level. Inhale and raise your right arm by the side of your head. Make sure that both your arms are parallel to each other and your legs are stretched straight. Now, while exhaling gently slide your upper body to the left and tilt it down. Your arm will also move simultaneously. As your left hand comes down you can keep it on the ankle, over the shin, on your knee or simply rest it on the floor. Your chest and tummy should be facing the front.
Gently stretch your left palm away from the body and press with the back of your hand into the shin or ankle. The weight should be on both the legs and you are just pressing your hands against the inside of the leg to maintain balance. Repeat it using the other arm. You can practice this pose for 2-6 long breaths.
Dhanurasana, also known as the bow pose, is a yoga exercise which is credited to expanding the chest, improving blood circulation and relieving stress and anxiety. According to an article about Dhanurasana on Yoga International website, it states, "Resembling an archer's bow, this posture encourages a powerful stretch along the front of the body and a deep opening at the heart center, helping you cultivate an attitude of fearlessness and grace."
How to do: Lie down on your stomach with your feet slightly apart. Slowly, fold your knees up and hold your ankles with your hands. Breathe in and lift your chest off the ground and pull your legs up and stretch it out. You should feel the stretch on your arms and thighs. Hold the pose for 12-15 seconds. Slowly bring your chest and legs back to the ground, release your hold on the ankles, and relax with your hands on the side. Repeat for a few sets.
3. Bridge Pose or Setu Bandhasana
This yoga asana is known to increase blood flow to the chest region, thus boosting heart health. "It regulates the flow of blood and prana (energy) to the heart, the glands in the neck and the head, and releases tension," says a Delhi-based Yoga expert, Anju Kalhan of Vivafit Fitness Center.
How to do: Lie down on your back. Draw your feet inwards towards the hips. Now lift yourself up with your stomach going towards the ceiling along with your back, hip and thighs. Chin and chest should be locked. Keep your hands sideways or engage them in supporting your back. Inhale while going up, hold, exhale while coming down. Breathe normally in case you are holding the pose for long.