According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key causes of heart disease. Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels result from stress, anxiety, poor diet and lack of physical activity. The American Heart Association says healthy eating, exercise and meditation are recommended lifestyle choices to prevent and reverse heart disease.
Yoga is a physical practice that emphasizes breath, focus and meditation. Practicing yoga brings a deeper awareness of the body, mind and emotions allowing the yogi to become more in tuned with their physical and mental health. Yoga builds cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, and improves respiratory function and heart rate. It also boosts blood circulation, builds muscle, and decreases inflammation.
More: Post-Race Yoga Poses
Step onto your mat; these four poses will help improve your heart health.
Padangusthasana: Big Toe Pose
Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, place hands on the hips. Inhale, then exhale folding forward to grab your big toes or hang forward and grab your opposite elbows. Draw the belly in and lift your sit bones towards the sky. Activate the quadriceps and allow the neck and head to relax down. Bend your knees slightly if your hamstrings are tight. If flexible, draw the torso toward the legs. Hold for 5 to 10 breath cycles.
Benefits: Strengthens the thighs and stretches the hamstrings and calves. Calms the brain, relieves stress, and reduces anxiety and mild depression. Therapeutic for high blood pressure.