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Cardiovascular disease is caused by disorders of the heart and blood vessels, and includes coronary heart disease (heart attacks), cerebral-vascular disease (stroke), raised blood pressure (hypertension), peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart failure. According to WHO; Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.1 million lives a year. Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the life style diseases afflicting a large segment of society today. Yoga has an enormous potential to help prevent and cure this problem.  

Yogic Perspective on Disease

A state of harmony at physical, mental and vital (Pranic) levels is considered health in yoga. Any disease in yoga is seen as a disturbance in these various levels of human functioning. To restore the balance, a disciplined and harmonious living is emphasized by incorporating elements of sattvik diet, positive thinking and awareness, right conduct and yogic practices.

The Role of Yogic Diet

Most of the medical practitioners agree that one can lower the risk of heart diseases by adopting a healthy diet. According to Yoga and Ayurveda both; food has the potential to act as a medicine as well as poison. Therefore a right choice of food is recommended. In condition of heart diseases a more sattvik food is the right choice. A sattvik food is light, pure and fresh in nature and has the qualities to nourish and vitalize the body and mind.   

Dietary & Lifestyle recommendations for Heart disorders according to Ayurveda and Hatha Yoga

    • Eat a nourishing diet that removes all processed foods, poor quality dairy, poor quality oils, hydrogenated oils. Increase foods that are excellent for the heart. Use garlic, turmeric, ginger and saffron. Include whole grains, pulses and foods high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as hemp seed oil. EFAs are renowned for helping to keep arteries clean and the heart strong.
      Avoid over-eating and eating frequently.
    • Eat a light breakfast and dinner. Lunch should be the main meal. Milk products, fried foods, cold foods and acidic foods should be taken in small quantities. White flour products and foods that contain chemical preservatives and additives should be avoided. Animal products, especially red meat, are not good as they take a long time to digest, and create a lot of toxins in the stomach.
      Seasonal fruits and fresh vegetables (steamed or cooked), Brown bread or Chapatti, salad, sprouts, vegetable soup, buttermilk, cottage cheese (paneer), a little quantity of fresh milk and ghee (clarified butter) prepared from cow’s milk, make up an ideal list of food items to choose from.
    • Sweet should be taken in moderation. Honey and jaggery are the healthier choice. Fried foods such as pulses and their preparations, and groundnut oil are prohibited. Ayurvedic physicians allow butter or ghee, and not groundnut oil. Cow’s ghee, cow’s milk and cows’ butter are useful for the patient. Buffalo ghee and buffalo milk are not recommended.
    • Stimulants like tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks are very harmful for such patients.
      In addition to maintaining a healthy eating pattern, specific foods are often recognized as particularly heart-healthy. One of the most popular of these healthful foods is fatty fish with its high omega-3 fatty acid content. A recent study determined that women who consumed more omega-3 fatty acid laden fish (two servings weekly) had a reduced rate of death due to heart disease. These researchers found that this was independent of cardiovascular risk factors or other dietary sources that may influence the development of heart disease. Good sources of omega-3’s besides fish are: flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil, sesame oil, peanut butter and oil, sunflower seeds and oil, avocado, soybean oil, and safflower oil.

 

  • Lifestyle: Your heart needs a regular supply of oxygen and it also must not be overstressed. Practice light aerobic exercise and regular relaxation. Ayurveda would recommend some nourishing yoga practices, such as the dynamic ‘Sun Salutation’ as well as daily breathing practices (Pranayama). Ayurveda suggests exercising within your own limitations and does not encourage excessive exercise that leaves you tired. Yoga is exercise that leaves you energized and fitter.
    A very common cause of heart diseases is mental stress. Regular practice of yoga and Pranayama (breathing exercises) reduces stress levels. Also, meditation has been scientifically proven to prevent as well as cure heart diseases.
    Ayurveda considers the functions of heart and mind inter-linked. Disturbance in one affects the other. Therefore, patients having heart disease are advised to refrain from anxiety, worry, excessive sexual intercourse and wrathful disposition. All efforts should be made for the patient to have good sleep at night. Even rest during the day is essential. He should never be permitted to remain awake at night for long.

 

  • Awareness in eating: Awareness is quintessence of yoga. ‘Awareness’ is a key and central issue of inestimable importance in any Yogic practice. When we eat, most of us are either indulge ourselves in conversation or even in our own thoughts. When this happens we lose the connection with our food and the entire process of eating becomes unconscious. Tradition says our act of eating should be as mindful and alive as any other processes of yogic techniques. This helps to deepen our sensitivity/awareness of food and processes of the body and also helps to have a self restraint as one of the main causes of overeating absence of awareness from the act of eating.

Recommended Yogic Techniques

  • Yogic relaxation

Principle of relaxation is one of the most fundamental elements in Yogic processes of managing cardiovascular diseases.

Yogic relaxation techniques such as Yoga Nidra (the psychic/yogic sleep), Nadi Shodhana pranayama (popularly called coronary pranayama) are excellent tools to relax the tired heart and tensed mind.

Yoga Nidra helps to reduce physical, mental and emotional tensions. It relieves the working strain upon cardiac muscles and induces relaxed mental attitude and healthy emotional environment within. The entire technique of Yoga Nidra is done in the corpse pose (Shavasana; a supine position). The guided process of yoga nidra is experienced on the levels of feelings and awareness. Some of the important stages in yoga nidra are the rotation of consciousness through body parts, which helps releasing the tensions stored in the musculature and stage of meditative visualizations help harmonizing the neuro-psychic of the individual equally.

  • Nadi Shodhana ‘a coronary pranayama’

Nadi shodhana pranayama is one of the most soothing and harmonizing techniques in hatha yoga. It helps in oxygenation process and helps repair the damaged tissues. Therefore nadi shodhana is highly effective both in initial recovery of a heart patient and in subsequent rehabilitation and rejuvenation period. In one of the stages of nadi shodhana; known as alternate nostril breathing or anulom vilom, inhalation and exhalation are done through alternate nostrils with a very slow, controlled and soothing breath. This process soothes the anxious mind, relaxes the excited nerves and stabilizes the irregular heart and circulation. 5-10 minutes of practice every day will ensure relaxed and efficient functioning of cardiovascular system.

 

  • Asana

In cardiovascular management, asanas are vitally important but should not be performed at the expense of relaxation. The must get adequate rest and relaxation in between the posture and at the slightest sign of heart strain or pain the posture of relaxation should be adopted.

Hasta Utthanasana (Raised arms pose)

Hasta Utthanasana Raised arm Pose Hasta Utthanasana Raised arm Pose

Hasta Utthanasana is an excellent posture to improve the capacity of the lungs. This asana influences the heart and circulation of blood in the body; especially the brain gets extra supply of oxygenated blood.

Technique

Stand with the feet together and arms in front of the body with the wrist crossed. Inhale slowly and deeply and simultaneously raise the arms upwards through the front of the body while keeping the wrists crossed. As the arms move upwards bend the head slightly backwards to look at the hands.

At the end of deep inhalation, open the arms to stretch them outwards to the sides at shoulder level with exhalation. Inhale again and reverse the movement of the arms to bring them above the head with wrist crossed and finally exhale again and lower the arms through the front to the starting position. This completes one round of the practice. Repeat the process 5-10 rounds.

 

Tadasana (Palm Tree pose)

Tadasana or the palm tree pose gives a very good stretch to the entire spinal column, shoulders and the neck. It helps also to rectify faulty and shallow breathing.

Tadasana

Stand with the feet close to each other and the hands interlocked in the front. Turning the palms outwards place the hands on top of the head with palms facing upwards, fix the gaze on one steady point in front of the eyes at the eye level, this is the starting position of this asana. With one slow inhalation stretch the arms above the head and balance on the toes. Hold the balance in the final position and with the exhalation lower the hands and the heels back into the starting position. This completes one round of the practice. Please perform six rounds of this practice with full synchronization of the breath.

Note: During the practice, in the final position, try to minimize the movement of the body and develop the ability to balance.  After completing the six rounds lower the arms to the sides and relax the shoulders, neck and the arms.

 

Tiryaka Tadasana (Swaying Palm tree pose)

 Tiryaka Tadasana gives stretch to the sides and the postural muscles. It is a very good posture for those who suffer from back stiffness and postural problems. Both Tadasana and Tiryaka Tadasana help develop physical and mental balance.

Tiryaka Tadasana

 

Technique

 

Separate the feet around two and half feet apart. Interlock the hands as done in the first practice. With one deep inhalation stretch the arms above the head and with the exhalation bend to the right side keeping the elbows straight and beside the ears. With inhalation come back to the center and bend to the left side with exhalation to complete one round of the practice. In this way one can perform this asana for 5-7 rounds with synchronized breath. After completing the practice lower the arms to the sides, bring the feet close to each other, take a few deep breaths and relax the body.

 

Marjari Asana (Cat Stretch pose)

Marjari asana is another practice which can be done safely in cardiovascular condition. This asana improves the flexibility of the neck and spine and is ideal for people who sit on the chair for long hours.

 

Marjari Asana Marjari Asana

Technique

Kneel on the floor. Lean forward and place the hands on the floor underneath the shoulders. In ideal condition, both hands should align with the knees. Keeping the elbows straight with a slow and relaxed inhalation raise the head and simultaneously arch the back.  In the final position head is raised upwards.

 

Shashankasana

With exhalation take the chin to the chest and raise the spine upwards like a cat and contact the abdominal muscles gently to empty the lungs. This is one round of the practice.

Shashankasana

This practice can be done with relaxed and synchronized breath for 7-10 rounds. And after completing the rounds relax the body in the Shashankasana (Moon or Hare pose). Shashankasana calms down the nervous tensions and anger. One can incorporate deep, relaxed abdominal breath in this position to enhance the feelings of relaxation and internalization of mind.

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Rishikesh Yogis

At Rishikesh Yogis, we believe yoga is a life-style. It is not a technique or a mere practice; it is how one can lead their life towards its betterment. Our yoga retreats and training sessions lead you to immerse yourself into the yogic lifestyle while dwelling in an ashram style setting, alongside experienced and dedicated yogis. Our yoga teachers are world-class yoga certified trainers, while our courses are certified from the very prestigious Yoga Alliance, USA.