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Yoga: Chicken Soup for the Heart

Can Yoga Help Prevent Heart Diseases?


Yoga: Chicken Soup for the Heart
Photo © Ananya Chaudhuri yogaberry.in
Hinduism attaches as much importance to the mind and the soul, as to the body. Scriptures say humans can achieve all aims and reach righteous destinations even through the medium of the body. Ancient texts like the Yoga Sutra of Pitanjali (300 BC) enunciates the means of keeping the body in good shape, attaining sound health, and increasing lifespan through the physical discipline of Yoga.

Yoga & Your Heart

Heart diseases are common killers in most developed countries. Can Yoga help prevent heart attacks and keep heart diseases at bay? Yeah! Yoga can do it. If you think Yoga is just a "new-found ability to touch your toes", you're mistaken! The practice of Yoga has a substantial foundation in science and provides all-round benefits to a human being.

Owing to its many positive effects - direct and indirect - on the cardiovascular system, Yoga can play a pivotal role in heart care. Yoga, as defined by Pitanjali, is "restraining extrovert activities of the mind so the self emerges in its own form". It drives a person to self-realization, to awaken latent powers of the body through various asanas (yogic postures) and the mind through meditation and pranayama (breath control). All this results in relaxation of the body and the mind.

Treating the Heart Through the Mind

Yoga treats a person not merely as a mass of flesh and blood, but as a being with a soul. Doctors have come to recognize that this kind of treatment can give patients greater solace and better recovery.

As soon as a person takes to Yoga, his/her life pattern, personality and diet changes. S/he tends to become a puritan and tries to keep away from smoking, drinking and consuming non-vegeterian food. Dr. S Thanikachalam, a specialist in heart diseases, feels that yoga is "a combination of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and physiotherapy", and that it directly affects the hypothalamus - area of the brain controlling endocrine activity - in preventing cardiac attacks. This helps generate positive spontaneous energy, which helps the person correct himself, and think clearly.

Yoga is at the core of alternative systems that are widely employed to prevent and treat various diseases of the heart. The physical activity in Yoga enhances cardiac efficiency precipitously soon after a person starts practising Yoga. In fact, Yoga is as effective in increasing muscle efficiency as any dynamic exercise like running or swimming.

Yoga & Cardiovascular Care

Yoga has an important role in both the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases as well as recurrence of heart attacks, hypertension and coronary heart diseases. As opposed to a therapeutic intervention, such as an angioplasty or bypass surgery, which cannot stop the disease from cropping up again - medical practitioners agree - Yoga can definitely help in hindering the progress of heart diseases.

According to Dr. HS Wasir, mental relaxation through meditation and Yoga contribute heavily to the prevention of ahterosclerosis (narrowing of coronary arteries and brain blood vessels). Aasanas or Yogic postures have a positive catalytic effect that helps control not only heart diseases, but many others, such as diabetes, obesity, and psychiatric illnesses.

The Four Cornerstones

Traditional Vedic wisdom encapsulated in Yoga can be effectively applied in the control and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The four vital aspects of Yogic training - Achaar (character and conduct), Vichaar (perception), Vyavahaar (behavior) and Ahaar (diet) form the corner-stones of good health.

Yoga Programs for Heart Care

There are quite a few comprehensive programs for heart patients and certification courses for Yoga teachers, who would like to share Yoga with people living with heart disease, cancer and other debilitating diseases. Such training programs generally focus on the theory and practice of asana, pranayama, deep relaxation, imagery and meditation as applied for cardiac and general health. These didactic and experiential courses are also useful for people with family histories and risk factors.

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