Leveraging the Soothing Influence of Yoga for Optimal Heart Health on International Yoga Day 2023

In the fast-paced and stressful world of today, prioritizing our health, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart, has become increasingly crucial. Heart disease, once primarily associated with older individuals, is now impacting younger generations more and more. As we celebrate International Yoga Day, it’s the perfect opportunity to shed light on the vital role that yoga plays in maintaining a healthy heart and overall well-being.

The heart, often referred to as the “engine of the body,” is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout our system. However, modern lifestyles characterized by sedentary habits, excessive stress, poor diet, and limited physical activity have had a negative impact on heart health. Dr. Rahul Chandola, Founder-Chairman and Chief of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery at the Institute of Heart Lungs Diseases & Research Centre (IHLD), says, “The significant rise in early-onset cardiac events among the Indian population can be attributed to lifestyle changes and dietary preferences. Yoga emerges as a crucial intervention in the battle against cardiovascular disorders, encompassing preventive measures and aiding in recovery. Additionally, the contemporary era is marked by heightened levels of stress, posing a formidable challenge to cardiovascular health.”

Indians have significantly higher hospitalization rates for complications of coronary artery disease (CAD) compared to other ethnic groups, particularly individuals under 40 years old. The prevalence of CAD is 21.4 percent among diabetics and 11 percent among non-diabetics in India. Rural areas have a lower CAD prevalence compared to urban areas. The percentage of deaths due to cardiovascular accidents in individuals under the age of 50 increased from 15 percent before Covid to 24 percent in recent times.

Role of Yoga in Heart Health

Yoga, an ancient practice originating in India, offers a comprehensive solution to counter the risk factors contributing to heart disease. The holistic nature of yoga engages the mind, body, and spirit, promoting overall well-being. Its multifaceted benefits are instrumental in ensuring optimal heart functioning and mitigating the risks associated with cardiovascular ailments.

Yoga asanas, or poses, stimulate blood circulation, strengthen the cardiovascular system, and improve flexibility. Poses like Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) stretch the chest, open the heart, and invigorate the lungs, enhancing overall heart health. “Regular practice can lead to lowered blood pressure, improved heart rate variability, and increased oxygen supply to the body. As simple as Kapalbhati can keep health in check,” adds Dr. Chandola.

Stress is a significant contributor to heart disease. Yoga offers a sanctuary of tranquility and serenity, enabling individuals to manage stress more effectively. Through deep breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation, yoga helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, relieving the burden on the heart.

Incorporating yoga into our daily lives goes beyond the mat. The principles of yoga inspire us to adopt healthier habits, such as mindful eating, regular exercise, and proper sleep. By cultivating self-awareness and making conscious choices, we create an environment conducive to heart health.

A Healthy Diet and Yoga

“In the pursuit of improved heart health, elevating our dietary choices assumes paramount significance. Among the myriad factors posing a threat, the consumption of meals prepared outside our homes emerges as a common assailant. It is essential for individuals to abstain from partaking in unhealthy food options that often contain detrimental trans fats. By consciously avoiding trans fats and making informed decisions regarding our nutritional intake, we take a substantial stride towards safeguarding our hearts and promoting comprehensive well-being,” states Dr. Chandola.

The Simplicity of Yogic Practice 

One of the remarkable aspects of yoga is its adaptability to various time constraints. Even a few minutes of focused practice can yield significant benefits. Incorporating simple practices such as Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which combines physical postures with controlled breathing, can be an ideal way to kickstart the day and prepare the body for optimal functioning. Short meditation breaks during the day or gentle stretches before bed can also help alleviate stress and enhance heart health.

Yoga’s impact extends far beyond physical health. By nurturing a holistic approach to well-being, it encourages a balanced and harmonious lifestyle. Regular yoga practice promotes emotional balance, mental clarity, and heightened self-awareness.

Co-relation of Sleep and Yoga

“Maintaining regular sleep-wake patterns, managing stress, and adopting a healthy lifestyle is crucial for heart health. Yoga complements conventional treatment for heart diseases, reducing stress, improving cardiovascular fitness, managing blood pressure, enhancing cardiac function, supporting weight management, and promoting emotional well-being,” opines Dr. Somit Kumar, MD(Ayu), (Ph.D.), who currently serves as the Director of Research at the AVP Research Foundation in Coimbatore.

Dr. Kumar further informs that disruptions in the circadian rhythm, such as irregular sleep patterns or shift work, can impact blood pressure regulation, heart rate variability, lipid metabolism, inflammation, and insulin resistance. “Early screening for risk factors can raise awareness and encourage yogic lifestyle changes to prevent or slow the development of atherosclerosis. Cultivating a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and regular yoga asanas from childhood is crucial to addressing this epidemic,” shares Dr. Kumar.

Wellness Retreats Promoting Yoga

The surge in recognition and awareness surrounding the immense benefits of yoga has prompted a notable shift in the wellness industry, particularly within retreats and hotels. These havens of rejuvenation and relaxation have acknowledged the pivotal role of yoga in promoting holistic well-being and have incorporated dedicated yoga sessions as an integral part of their offerings.

“Never before have yoga and wellness retreats been in such high demand within the industry. With a renewed focus on holistic well-being, nutrition, and rejuvenation, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, an increasing number of individuals are seeking a truly wholesome holiday experience by incorporating yoga into their getaway,” believes Ramesh, Yoga Instructor at Moksha Himalaya Spa Resort.

Ramesh adds, “At Moksha Himalaya Spa Resort, we have observed an intriguing transformation. Today’s young travelers are actively choosing to participate in yoga sessions during their visits, displaying a keen curiosity about its practice and the advantages it brings. It has become imperative for the younger generation to embrace yoga as a part of their daily lifestyle, and they are enthusiastic about integrating it into their holidays as well.”

By opting for wellness retreats that offer yoga sessions, individuals can create a truly wholesome holiday experience. Not only do these retreats provide a serene and rejuvenating environment, but they also offer a range of wellness programs that go beyond yoga.

“When the heart and the mind align through the practice of yoga, harmony and vitality flow effortlessly, nurturing a resilient heart.”



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