Hatha and the heart

2013August18_HathaYoga_AHatha Yoga, with it’s mindfulness, breathing techniques and gentle relaxation, is the perfect exercise for helping the heart, both physically and emotionally. With cardiovascular disease being such a big killer, the need to reduce any risks to the heart is essential. While Hatha has the reputation for being somewhat soft and serene, it can have a huge impact on your wellbeing, both emotionally and physically.

The connection between yoga and the heart is well established. Not only have there been many studies looking into the impact of yoga on the cardiovascular system, but the whole idea of yoga has evolved from the heart and about the interconnectedness of mankind. A healthy heart is essential and while you may want to lose weight, shape up or change some physical appearance through exercise, all fitness routes lead back to the core of your survival and existence – the beating of your heart.

 Hatha Yoga is believed to have positive effect on the heart in many different ways:

  • Reduces heart rate and high blood pressure: Slow, controlled breathing, meditation and stretches rather than full-on cardio, help lower the heart rate which is beneficial for anyone suffering from hypertension.

  • Lowers cardiovascular risks: Cholesterol, blood sugar and stress hormones all put the heart at risk. However, Hatha lowers these levels and reduces the risk to the heart.

  • Supports cardiac rehabilitation: A Georgia State University study looked at the link between heart failure recovery and yoga. A control group and a yoga therapy group were made up of 40 heart failure participants. After 8-10 weeks the evidence suggested that the yoga group had a 22% improvement in their aerobic capacity. Their flexibility also improved and they also had less inflammatory markers. Recordings of their quality of life scores were higher than the control group too.

  • Mind-body-heart connection: The methodical movements in Hatha encourage you to ¬†bring your attention to your breath and your body. This inspires you to feel in touch with yourself and more aware of your body, which can make you feel relaxed and possibly more likely to respond to your body’s needs.

  • Respect: Hatha Yoga isn’t about mindless exercise. Quite the opposite. It is a philosophy and a way of life. As you build up your practice, your attitude to your body and your whole being changes. Hatha is about respecting and loving yourself and this leads to you looking after your health and your heart.

  • Taking control: While in many respects yoga is about letting go, this actually leads you to becoming more involved and taking more control over your own life. It’s not about discipline but instead about trusting and believing in your own innate wonderfulness.

  • Mending a broken heart: While there may not be evidence that you can die of a broken heart, there’s no doubt that emotions and stress can manifest in physical ailments and are a burden to the body. The mindfulness of Hatha Yoga encourages you to let thoughts and feelings to ebb and flow through the heart and mind without any judgement. This is both liberating and healing and many practitioners talk of the emotional balance after a class. Yoga gives you an outlet to deal with complex emotions and difficulties, not to mention creating clarity of thought which can lead to valuable headspace.

  • Opening your heart chakra: Hatha poses, meditation and breathing are all aimed at opening your heart center, right in the middle of your chest area. Yogis believe that the body has seven vital energy points, called chakras, that need to be kept open for quality of life and spiritual and emotional benefit. Located near your solar plexus, many of the exercises in Hatha are specifically designed to free this part of the body, let out emotions and ensure you don’t become stagnant or stuck. Hatha is therapeutic, healing and an emotional spring clean.

Wellbeing is about the physical such as a healthy heart but also the hidden heart which some take as the inner self or the emotional self. Once you see the benefits of yoga, whether it be Hatha Yoga or another style, you will undoubtedly love it wholeheartedly.

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