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5 reasons why you should try yoga according to a cardiologist

There's more to yoga than merely bending and stretching. A cardiologist shares the benefits of this ancient practice that is a perfect amalgamation of science and art

Yoga's uniqueness lies in how it bridges the gap between physical exercise and mental tranquility.
Yoga's uniqueness lies in how it bridges the gap between physical exercise and mental tranquility. (Unsplash/Wesley Tingey)

In a fast-paced world where stress and lifestyle diseases are unavoidable, incorporating yoga into your daily routine can be a game-changer for your overall well-being. The way I see it, yoga isn't just about bending and stretching; it's a holistic practice that harmonizes the body, mind and spirit. This ancient Indian practice has evolved over millennia but remains rooted in fostering inner peace and physical vitality. For the common man, this means having an accessible tool for enhancing health without needing specialized equipment or gyms.

Here, I outline five compelling reasons why everyone should incorporate yoga into their daily routine. 

Also read: Life lessons from a yoga practice

1. Heart health beyond numbers: Traditionally, heart health is gauged by numbers: cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. However, these numbers only tell part of the story. Yoga offers a unique approach to heart health. Yoga's gentle exercises are beneficial as they improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and regulate heart rate – all of which are vital for a healthy heart. Moreover, the deep breathing techniques in yoga oxygenate the blood, enhancing heart function.

2. Tackling stress: We live in a world where stress is a constant companion, impacting our health significantly. Stress is a silent enemy of heart health, contributing to hypertension and heart diseases. Stress can initiate inflammation in blood vessels, leading to blood clots, which lead to heart attack and stroke. How we handle stress also matters. Most of us respond to it in unhealthy ways such as smoking, overeating, or not exercising: all of these make matters worse.  Through its meditative practices, yoga is a natural antidote against stress. It encourages relaxation, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, and promotes a sense of well-being, which is crucial for a healthy heart.

3. Enhancing flexibility and strength: A common misconception is that heart health is all about cardio exercises. Yoga, however, proves that flexibility and strength are equally important. Regular practice improves muscle tone, joint mobility, and cardiovascular health. For the average person, this means better posture, fewer aches, and increased stamina. A study comparing yoga to Pilates and Zumba for better control of hypertension showed yoga was more potent in reducing high blood pressure than the two other viral entities.

4. Cultivating the mind-body connection: Heart health is not just physical; it's also psychological. Yoga strengthens the mind-body connection, fostering mental clarity and emotional stability. This heightened awareness helps in the early detection of potential health issues and encourages a more mindful approach to lifestyle choices.

5. Yoga as a lifestyle: Yoga isn't just an activity; it's a way of life. Its principles of balance, harmony, and mindfulness extend beyond the mat. Practicing yoga encourages healthier eating habits, improved sleep patterns, and a more balanced response to life's challenges. This holistic approach is beneficial not just for heart health but for overall well-being. 

Also read: Yoga can help in treatment of patients with heart failure, says study

My personal journey with yoga
 As a cardiologist, embracing yoga has reshaped my physical health and perspective on medicine. Yoga taught me the importance of balance and the interconnection between mental and physical health. These insights have been invaluable in my medical practice, enabling me to offer a more comprehensive approach to patient care.

The science and art of yoga
Yoga is a perfect amalgamation of science and art. It bridges the gap between physical exercise and mental tranquility, providing a comprehensive approach to wellness. The beauty of yoga lies in its adaptability; it can be modified to suit everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or health condition.

How to incorporate yoga into your life
Starting a yoga practice can seem intimidating, but more straightforward than you think. Begin with simple poses and gradually increase the complexity. Yoga classes, online tutorials, and apps with proper guidance can take you through the basics. Remember, the goal is not perfection but progress. 

In conclusion, yoga offers innumerable benefits that extend beyond physical fitness. It's a tool for managing stress, enhancing heart health, and improving quality of life. The world's first book on the use of yoga for heart disease, The Principle and Practice of Yoga for Cardiovascular Disease, gives research findings that support the use of yoga to reduce weight and high blood pressure, prevent heart attack, and better control diabetes. I can attest to its benefits for heart patients and everyone. So, try yoga for physical vigour, mental clarity, or emotional stability. It might just be the best decision you make for your health. 

Dr. Indranill Basu Ray is a cardiac electrophysiologist and a cardiology and public health professor based in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He is also the founder and chairman of the American Academy for Yoga in Medicine. 

Also read: Jump your way to better strength and fitness


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