8 Week Yoga Regimen for Heart Rehabilitation

8 Week Yoga Regimen for Heart Rehabilitation

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that involves meditation, spiritual discipline, stretching, diet, breath control, and sound. There are many scientific studies showing that yoga can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety, and suggesting the benefits of yoga in a variety of medical conditions. It is becoming increasingly common to find yoga classes being offered in medical centers.


Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means “the unity of body and mind”. It is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation, and has been practiced in eastern traditional medicine for over 5000 years. In the philosophical doctrine of yoga, hatha yoga is the physical training part, combining postural exercise (asana), voluntary control of breathing (pranayama) and relaxation and meditation (shavasana).Yoga can improve physical and mental health, and promotes well-being.

Yoga means unity and signifies oneness. Bhakti; a kind of yoga aims to take all of the love in one's heart and direct it toward the divine. Through yoga exercises, participants will stretch and strengthen muscles, loosen joints and tone internal organs while focusing on breathing. If a brisk walk isn't your thing, yoga or Pilates are useful because the slower pace helps to slow and control breathing. Also, giving you a simple foot massage or making a date at a local spa for a massage will do the trick for muscle relaxation. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful scene or try a class in yoga or meditation (check with your doctor first).

Unhealthy lifestyles will result in longer waits for surgeries, including heart bypass and angioplasty procedures. But you can reduce your risk by increasing activity, quitting smoking and keeping a healthy weight (Yoga burns approximately 360 calories per hour), taking up yoga to reduce blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol. Yoga connects each person with their own true self. It has everyone's best interest at heart. You can heal yourself. Ashtanga gets your heart pumping, which makes it a good cardiovascular workout. It can help you relax. It helps take harmful emotions away.

Laughter Yoga combines the benefits of laughter and yoga breathing. It begins as simulated laughter that soon leads to spontaneous laughter. Children laugh an average of 400 times each day; adults laugh an average of 15 times each day. Laughter is relaxing, great for the lungs and heart, reduces stress, improved physical fitness, self-esteem, body composition and increases feelings of joy and wellness.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter and possible ultimate treatment for depression and anxiety. Another study by FSU College of Medicine and suggested that it also may be the prescription for ailments ranging from headaches to heart disease.

"Yoga appears to be more effective for low back pain than conventional exercise"; according to Health Cooperative's Center for Health Studies. Among healthy individuals, practices such as Yoga seemed to increase verbal creativity and reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol.

An eight-week regimen of yoga proved safe for patients with chronic heart failure and helped reduce signs of inflammation often linked with death, according to a study released recently.

More than 5 million Americans have chronic heart failure; a long-term condition in which the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently to the body's other organs. Health problems and deaths from the disease remain high despite widespread use of effective drug and device therapies to treat the condition.

Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta who measured the effects of an eight-week yoga regimen on 19 heart failure patients found the exercise routine reduced markers of inflammation associated with heart failure while also improving exercise tolerance and quality of life.

"Many people believe the addition of yoga may be beneficial in cardiac rehabilitation," said the researchers, whose findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. "Furthermore, it may be that yoga has an impact on the mechanisms of action involved in the progression of heart failure."

The study found significant differences in levels of biological markers in the blood -- interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and extra-cellular superoxide dismutase -- between patients who completed the yoga therapy and those who received standard medical therapy. Patients on yoga therapy completed the regimen without complications.

Patients who did yoga saw a 26 percent decrease in symptoms on a standard assessment that measures quality of life in heart failure patients, compared to a 3 percent decrease for the patients on medical therapy alone.” Yoga is aerobic. It is not surprising, in terms of its effects on the inflammatory markers," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, who prescribes both yoga and tai chi, a Chinese martial art, to her heart failure and heart attack patients.

Goldberg, a professor of medicine at New York University, said heart failure patients often have trouble with exercise due to fatigue and shortness of breath caused by the heart's reduced pumping ability.” What’s nice is they found not only does it reduce inflammatory markers, but it is a safe form of exercise and it improves the quality of their lives," Goldberg said.

Reducing stress and anxiety can help lessen the frequency or intensity of your heart palpitations. Try breathing exercises or deep relaxation (a step-by-step process of tensing and then relaxing every muscle group in your body) when palpitations occur. Practicing yoga or tai chi on a regular basis can reduce the frequency of your palpitations. Quiet time, meditation, prayer, reading, yoga, and relaxation techniques (including biofeedback) can help in stress management.

Alternatives to traditional exercise provide variety and fun. The benefits of aerobics include increased cardiopulmonary efficiency, strengthened heart and lungs, improved circulation, lowered cholesterol levels, and stress and anxiety reduction. Examples of these exercises include yoga, Pilates, and tai chi. But it is a strenuous form of exercise, and thorough preparation, wise choice of routines, proper equipment, and consideration of floor surfaces are essential to avoid injury.

Because chronic stress has been shown to increase the heart rate and blood pressure, making the heart work harder to produce the blood flow needed for bodily functions. Long-term elevations in blood pressure, also seen with essential hypertension (high blood pressure not related to stress), are harmful and can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, and stroke.

Finding ways to relax and reduce stress can help women who have PMS. Your doctor might suggest relaxation therapy to help lessen PMS symptoms. Relaxing activities like yoga or massage also may help. You also should be sure to get enough sleep. You can also take a few minutes to sit and listen to soothing music, or read a book. Talk to your friends or get help from a professional if you need it.

Yoga can also be helpful when combined with other therapies for heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga, when combined with a vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise and medication, has reduced cardiovascular disease rates and blood pressure levels. While you shouldn't expect yoga to cure you, it can help some health conditions when combined with treatment recommended by your doctor. And if you're perfectly healthy, yoga can be a good way to supplement your regular exercise routine.

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