Practice yoga for a healthy heart

Want to keep your heart healthy, but not a fan of traditional cardio workouts? According to new research, practising yoga might just be the answer.

IF YOU want to get your heart into good nick, but the thought of running or cycling is enough to have you hiding in bed all day, then new research from Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam is something you’ll want to peek over the duvet for.

Scientists have found regularly performing yoga reduces stress levels and increases fitness enough to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Yoga is just as capable of this as more strenuous exercise.

The research also found that yoga may be even more beneficial for those already suffering from heart disease.

After all, with its slow pace, yoga is far more accessible than more strenuous forms of cardio exercise, especially for those who suffer from joint issues like arthritis.

Next time you start your sun salutations, remember that it’s not just a chance to clear the mind and loosen the muscles — you’ll be strengthening the most important muscle in your body of all: the heart.

Try this suitable-for-all yoga workout devised by yoga teacher Cheryl MacDonald.

BOW POSE

Technique:

Lie on your belly with your hands by your sides, palms facing up.

Exhale, bend your knees and bring your feet up toward your bottom. Reach back and take hold of your ankles. Your knees should only be hip-distance apart, if possible.

Inhale, lifting your heels away from your buttocks. Lift your thighs up from the floor. Your head and chest will follow and lift up off the floor.

Try to keep your back muscles soft, rather than straining.

Continue to lift, press your shoulder blades together and open your chest. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward while breathing into your back

SAFETY TIP:

You don’t have to come all the way up — just grab the ankles and raise the chest if this is enough for you.

PIGEON POSE

Technique:

Start with one leg extended behind you, and the other bent with your thigh and lower leg on the floor.

Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your hip.

SAFETY TIP: If this is painful, lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you.

CAMEL POSE

Technique:

Start kneeling on the floor, with your torso extended and knees hip-width apart.

Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels, then push your hips forward so that they are directly over your knees. 

Allow your head to come back, opening your throat and chest to the ceiling as you do so.

If it’s too much of a stretch to reach all the way back to your feet, just take your hands to your hips. Look up and bend gently backwards, as far as is comfortable.

Take your shoulders back and down, and open your chest as much as is possible as you bend backward gently from your hips.

SAFETY TIP: Only arch the lower back as far as is comfortable, with full control.

WHEEL

Technique:

Lie on your back and bend your knees so that the soles of your feet remain flat on the floor. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with your heels close to your bottom.

Raise your hands, bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor beside your head.

Gradually push with your legs and arms and lift your hips to raise your body off the ground. Then try to straighten your arms as fully as possible.

Lift your hips and extend your back as much as possible.

SAFETY TIP: Start with a little lift and gradually work your way up.

COW POSE

Technique:

Start on your hands, with your knees set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders in line and perpendicular to the floor.

Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.

Inhale, lightly lift your lower belly. Exhale, scoop your tail bone under as you round your back towards the ceiling.

Feel as though the centre of your spine is being lifted to the ceiling and the space between each vertebra is opening.

Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.

Initiating movement from your tail bone, inhale and uncoil the spine, coming back to the start position.

SAFETY TIP: Don’t allow your shoulders to hunch.

CHILD'S POSE

Technique:

Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart and touch your big toes together.

Exhale, draw your sit bones back toward your heels and bring your forehead to the floor. 

Lay your tailbone heavy on your heels while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.

Extend your arms out in front of you, fingers spread wide, or lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms facing up, releasing the fronts of your shoulders towards the floor. 

Feel how the weight of your shoulders pulls your shoulder blades wide across your back.

HOT TIP: As you inhale, feel your belly expanding into your thighs and your lower back opening


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