Seasoned yogis and novice yoga enthusiasts will rave about how they “feel like a million bucks” after their favorite classes. For some the allure is the ability to stretch tired and sore muscles, for others it’s the time to relax a weary mind and body, relieve anxiety, or insomnia. Still others get sheer satisfaction from the mastery of a challenging balance or seeing improvements in strength and stability. No matter what it is that draws one to the practice, we yogis are hooked! If you haven’t yet found yourself convinced to step on the mat here’s one more reason to give it a shot. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and continues to take the lives of 655,000 Americans each year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths. A growing body of peer reviewed research indicates that a regular yoga practice yields a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors. Recent research indicates that yoga has an effect on heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose. With a great deal of heart disease in my family (Mother, Uncle, 2 Cousins), I highly support all means necessary to reduce my risks of heart disease, and if yoga can be part of the quest all the better!
Yoga is well known for its calming effect and is sometimes recommended in conjunction with more traditional psychotherapy and medical therapies for anxiety management. The use of yoga in clinical settings is now growing, and is used in eating disorders treatment programs, chemical dependency rehabilitation centers, and depression treatment programs. So how does yoga enhance heart health? Research has revealed evidence of how yoga is linked to a reduction in heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose.
Millions of Americans have high blood pressure, and about half of those individuals don’t have it under control. Uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Yoga can help reduce participant risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic research followed a 12-week yoga intervention on 65 participants. The yoga sessions were 3 times per week for 60 minutes. At the end of this 12-week study systolic blood pressures decreased from an average of 140.6 to 131.8 and diastolic blood pressures decreased from 98.2 to 84.9 in the yoga group (Krishna, 2014). Hypertension (high blood pressure) is indicated when one’s blood pressure is 140/90 or greater, so this study reduced participants’ blood pressures to below the hypertensive range.
Yoga is also connected with reducing cholesterol and blood sugar. Although diabetes is not a direct cause of heart disease, the two are frequently co-morbidities. A randomized, controlled study conducted in India of 100 participants (50 in control group, 50 in yoga group), were tested and performed yoga 5 times a week for one year. After 1 year of daily yoga, the yoga group reduced total cholesterol from an average 240 to 171mg/dl (down to recommended range which is 200mg/dl). The yoga group also saw a reduction in their fasting blood glucose, which dropped from 124 – 96 (normal range is less than 100) (Shanktakumari, et. Al, 2013).
So if learning to do Boat Pose doesn’t “float your boat,” maybe helping yourself maintain heart health is good motivation to jump aboard! We have 14 yoga classes a week at BFL. Chat with us if you’d like help deciding which one(s) would be best for you, and I’ll see you on the mat!
Krishna, B. H., Pal, P., G.K., P., J., B., E., J., Y, S., … G.S., G. (2014). Effect of Yoga Therapy on Heart Rate, Blood Pressure and Cardiac Autonomic Function in Heart Failure. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, 8(1), 14–16. http://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/7844.3983 92
Shantakumari, N., Sequeira, S., & El deeb, R. (2013). Effects of a yoga intervention on lipid profiles of diabetes patients with dyslipidemia. Indian heart journal, 65(2), 127–131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ihj.2013.02.010