Is Yoga Good for Heart Health?

November 16, 2017, Updated February 25,2018

Yoga & Heart Health

The research is starting stacking up for yoga. Yogis already know that it’s a great way to improve flexibility, get toned, and relax after a long day. But studies are finding that yoga could be a way to help keep your heart healthy too.

One reason for this is the deep, focused breathing that yoga utilizes in its practice. This type of breathing can help lower blood pressure and can also be stress-reducing. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing targets the autonomic nervous system and releases endorphins in the brain, which can have a calming effect on the body.

If you’re new to yoga, some of the poses can be a bit intimidating. But another great aspect to yoga is that many of the poses can be modified to match your skill level.

For starters, here are a few easy poses you can try right at your desk or on your lunch break.

1.     Seated Side Bend

As the name implies, this move is great for giving your side body a good stretch. Sit with your back away from the chair’s backrest. Place one hand on the seat of the chair beside you and the other hand reaching up. Gently stretch your raised arm up and over, breathing in deeply. Slowly release and exhale. Repeat this process with your other arm.

 

2.     Fan Pose

Sit on the edge of your seat with your feet on the floor. Inhale deeply as you reach your arms back to hold onto the chair’s backrest. Make sure your spine isn’t curling under, and instead, is reaching forward. If your shoulders are particularly tight, keep your hands low on the chair’s backrest and stretch as much or as little as is comfortable. When you find the right spot for your flexibility level, either hold the pose for 5 breaths, or release your arms forward as you exhale slowly.

 

3.     Chair Cat/Cow

Cat/Cow is great for gently stretching the back. To adapt this pose for a desk chair, you might need to sit sideways to give yourself enough room to bend backwards a bit. Whichever way you’re seated, make sure your feet are planted on the ground, your back is upright, and your shoulders are back. Push your chest forward to create a gentle curve in your spine as you lean forward over your lap and inhale deeply. As you lift yourself back up, gently curve your spine the opposite direction, lean slightly backwards, and exhale slowly. Repeat this process three times.

 

4.     Seahorse

If your hips tighten up and pinch, Seahorse might be the pose for you. Sit sideways on the edge of your seat and drop your outside knee to the ground (if your knee doesn’t touch the ground, that’s okay). Gently press the top of your foot into the ground for stability as you lean back and inhale. You should feel a stretch down the front of your hip and thigh. Exhale as you lean back up to neutral.

 

5.     Seated Child’s Pose

Child’s pose might be the most loved yoga move there is. It’s popular because it comfortably provides as deep of a stretch as you feel able. To do this seated, plant your feet on the ground under your knees, hinge at the waist, and inhale deeply as you bend forward. You can place your arms under your forehead on your lap, or next to your feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths and sit back up on an exhale. For a more intense stretch, widen your legs and fold forward between them.

 

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Bar, Judi. (2015, September 16). 12 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Work. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/09/12-yoga-poses-can-work/
Corliss, Julie. (2017, February 28). More than a stretch: Yoga’s benefits may extend to the heart. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-a-stretch-yogas-benefits-may-extend-to-the-heart-201504157868
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, November 5). Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733