Healthy Lifestyle

Yoga for Your Heart: 5 Benefits of Going With the Flow

Published: June 20, 2022

The cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise – such as walking or jogging – are well documented. But you may be surprised to learn that moving your workout from the treadmill to the mat may be just as heart healthy.

Growing in Popularity

Yoga, which incorporates a combination of poses, breathing techniques and meditation, originated in ancient India thousands of years ago but continues to grow in popularity.

According to Yoga Alliance, 36 million Americans practiced yoga in 2016, which is up from 20 million in 2012. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the majority of those who practice do so for health-related reasons. And whether you’re a seasoned yogi or you’ve barely mastered mountain pose, yoga can benefit your heart health in more ways than one.

It Reduces Stress

Stress, which can lead to inflammation and increased blood pressure, can play a huge role in your overall health and wellness. In fact, research suggests that chronic stress can increase your risks for cardiovascular events and disease.

Yoga addresses stress and anxiety by encouraging mental and physical relaxation – savasana, anyone?  

And, by tapping into and practicing mindfulness on the mat, you may notice your stress begin to fade and your mood begin to improve. You may also find it easier to be more mindful in your daily life, especially when it comes to the things you put in your body and the things you do for your body – all of which can impact your heart health.

It Helps You Lose Weight

When stress is managed and your mood is improved, it’s easier to avoid emotional eating. Not to mention, yoga helps burn calories and tone your muscles.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important, as obesity increases the risk of clogged arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Obesity can also lead to a spike in bad cholesterol.

It Lowers Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Levels

Any type of exercise will likely have positive effects on cholesterol. But research suggests that yoga, specifically, may help lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on the nerves and vessels that control the heart. Luckily, the repetitive stretching and flexing that yoga often requires helps keep those levels in check.

It Improves Circulation

Poor circulation requires the heart to work harder and can put you at risk for blood clots. But all the twisting and posing you may find yourself doing on the mat really gets your blood flowing! Yoga transports fresh, oxygenated blood to all your organs – including your heart.

It Improves Quality of Life

Yoga can be extremely beneficial for things like lowering your heart rate and increasing your exercise capacity – both of which make a difference in your quality of life.

But there’s also evidence that suggests yoga can support better sleep by relaxing the mind and muscles. It can also improve your mental health by increasing endorphins and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), or “feel-good chemicals.”

Because sleep can impact your mental health, and mental health can impact your heart health, yoga is a win-win for improving the way you feel every day.

Find Your Own Flow

If you’re new to yoga, you may feel a little intimidated about getting started. But remember this: Yoga is meant to meet you where you’re at. It’s not about being perfect. Modifying or avoiding certain poses can be more beneficial than forcing your body to do something it’s not ready or primed for.

On the flip side, if you're looking for a more intense cardio workout, there are several variations of yoga – like power or sculpt yoga that incorporate weights and resistance bands – that you may want to pursue.

Of course, before beginning any type of exercise, it’s important to talk with your provider. But one of the most important things you can do for your heart is finding something you enjoy. Because although any kind of exercise is beneficial, consistency is key in “namaste’ing” heart healthy.

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About the Author

For Jeremy Stone, MD, the ability to help improve a patient’s quality of life is exciting and humbling.

“It’s simply the greatest feeling to see your patient overcome obstacles and achieve their goals,” said Dr. Stone, a noninvasive cardiologist with Methodist Physicians Clinic. “My favorite moments come from seeing how much better they feel after treating their heart problem. Or the pride on their face when they describe their victories in lifestyle changes. I’m always astounded by the resilience and determination many people have, just waiting to be tapped into.”

Dr. Stone has extensive experience with cardiac imaging, including cardiac MRI and cardiac CT procedures. He’s also skilled in cardio-oncology, helping to guide the care of cancer patients who are at risk for heart complications. Methodist’s commitment to exploring such advanced approaches makes him proud to be part of its cardiology team.

See more articles from Jeremy Stone, MD
Jeremy Stone, MD