Yoga for Your Physical and Spiritual Heart
A healthy heart and an open, caring heart are both essential for wellbeing. Our physical heart makes life possible by pumping blood and oxygen to our cells and circulating blood with the waste products to our excretory organs. And our spiritual heart helps us strengthen our mind-body connection and find happiness through positive relationships and experiences. Learn how the ancient practice of yoga can strengthen both our physical and spiritual hearts with simple poses and practices that help us relax and stay well.
Maintaining a Healthy Physical Heart
Certain yoga poses naturally strengthen your physical heart, from helping the nervous system remain calm to lowering hypertension. Furthermore, yoga improves circulation and lung function and may reduce the danger of heart disease.
Take a Deep Breath
All yoga practices involve deep breathing. According to ShareCare.com, research shows that yogic 2:1 breathing (the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation) can help manage hypertension. And needless to say, deep, controlled breathing is an excellent way to manage stress. People say, “Take a deep breath,” for a reason!
Good to know: Restorative yoga centers on relaxation through deep stretches and breathing. Prenatal yoga puts a lot of focus on breathing, which comes in handy during delivery.
Stand Tall With the Mountain Pose
The classic mountain pose appears in almost all yoga practices and it’s easy to practice at home or work if you don’t have time for a class. Simply stand tall with your feet parallel, about hip-width apart. Keep you thighs firm, while you lift your toes up and down, while engaging your abdomen. (This protects your lower back.) And you guessed it, breathe deeply.
Good to know: The mountain pose calms your mind and aids circulation. Three to five breaths reap benefits.
Bust Stress With the Big-Toe Pose
The big-toe pose or padangusthasana starts with the mountain pose and is an excellent stress-buster. Once you are standing tall, bend from your hips and grab your big toes with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger of each hand. Next, inhale as you straighten your back, exhale and fold forward. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight.
Good to know: Don’t hyperextend your back or legs. Three to five breaths are plenty to begin.
Bridge Your Way to Heart Health
We’ve all heard of the bridge pose, and ShareCare.com explains how to do this strength-building exercise. First, relax on your back on a yoga mat, arms at your sides and palms down. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your sit bones. Your feet should be hip-width and parallel. Exhale, pressing down through your feet and hands while lifting your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Firm your buttocks and tilt your tailbone up to lengthen your lower back.
Good to know: Perform the bridge at home or in a class. Hold your pose for thee to five breaths.
Ease Back Pain With the Hand-to-Big Toe Pose
Back pain causes stress and that’s bad for our hearts. Supta Padangusthasana, aka hand-to-big toe pose, can help stretch tight hips and hamstrings and relieve that nagging pain. Here’s how it works: Lie on your back with your knees straight, feet together and legs extended. Inhale while bending the left knee and loop a strap or belt around your left foot. Exhale and straighten your left leg. Repeat on the other side.
Good to know: Hold for three to five breaths on each side. Be sure you don’t lock your knees.
Open Your Heart, Relax Your Mind and Body
Research shows that positive relationships and being part of a community increase wellbeing. As mentioned above, all types of yoga help us relax and unite our minds, bodies and spirits. We’ve identified four practices that are geared towards opening your heart and mind–and increasing your heath and happiness.
Anusara Yoga (Also Found in Hatha Yoga)
Ansura yoga puts a lot of attention on the mind-body-heart connection. Devotees believe we are all filled with goodness and can open our hearts to let our inner light shine through.
Kundalin is both a spiritual and physical practice that strengthens the connection between our minds and bodies . The idea is to clear energy blockages in the body through movement, chanting, meditation and mantras.
Jivamukti is a Vinyasa yoga flow-style class with Hindu spiritual teachings. Jivamukti emphasizes our connection to earth as a living being and there are often weekly themes with chanting, meditation, readings and affirmations.
Restorative yoga helps us wind down after a long day. This healing, restful practice can also help us become more mindful and accepting–good ways to build open, loving hearts.