There is evidence to suggest that Yoga, one of the oldest healing traditions in the world, can be used to prevent and manage heart problems. The same tenets – exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation – espoused in a Yogic lifestyle, are also those prescribed by medical professionals for coronary health. Often associated with toned bodies and complex poses, Yoga may have been intimidating in the past. With new Chair Yoga Classes, however, this ancient practice is now available to everyone.
If you classify the heart as a muscle, it is the strongest muscle in the body. Hollow and about the size of a fist, it pumps almost five liters of blood throughout the body every minute, carrying nutrients through the circulatory system to the organs. When its passageways become blocked, by fatty deposits or inflammation, the result is heart disease – a condition that kills one American every 35 seconds.
Coronary ailments affect both men and women and are becoming more common among the younger population, as well as those over 65. Although some risk factors are genetic, many are related to poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress. Smoking and alcohol are also detrimental to a healthy heart; and chronic conditions – such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and hardened arteries – greatly increase the odds of heart attacks.
According to clinical research, released by the American Heart Association – in 2004, participants who practiced Yoga three times a week, for 6 weeks, lowered their blood pressure and their risk of heart disease. Although people with coronary problems improved their blood vessel function, those who were healthy showed the greatest results in lowering their body mass index, pulse rate, and blood pressure.
While studies did not relate specifically to Chair Yoga, there is reason to believe that this new adaptation could be just as effective. There are several known and suggested mechanisms by which Chair Yoga may improve general cardiac health:
* Helps to prevent heart attacks by regulating the region of the brain that controls endocrine activity
* Lowers blood pressure
* Lowers pulse rate
* Reduces stress and anxiety
* Relaxes muscles
* Enables better self-care by enhancing the cognitive system
* Reduces inflammation by boosting the immune system
* Encourages positive thinking and a general sense of wellbeing
* Increases confidence and reduces feelings of helplessness
* Helps to control pain and reduce dependence on medications
* Increases energy and enables a more active lifestyle
* Lowers blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides – factors that contribute to inflammation
Chair Yoga classes, for heart disease, are offered in studios, senior centers, and health-related facilities around the world; and videos are available for home use. In addition to physical exercise, Chair Yoga often brings together a group of like-minded individuals, with similar issues, and that alone can be therapeutic.