Your heart takes a beating every day. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, cycling and running, is a great way to strengthen your heart muscle. But there’s more to a healthy heart than sweat inducing cardio. Most people think of yoga as a tool for improving flexibility. It does that and so much more according to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Research shows that yoga may even offer as much cardiovascular health benefit as conventional exercise by calming the nervous system, reducing stress and lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides, in addition to decreasing systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Ready to begin? Hold each pose gently for five to 10 breaths. This is a great sequence to do anywhere when you need some stress relief.
Downward Facing Dog
To do this pose: Come to the floor on your hands and knees. Push with your hands and straighten your legs till you are in the shape of an inverted ‘V.’ Extend your pelvic bones up and heels down. Let your head hang freely and stretch your waist. Heels are off the floor but are actively trying to reach the floor.
Why it’s good: Elongates the shoulders and stretches and strengthens the hands, wrists, low back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon.
Standing Forward Fold
To do this pose: Standing tall, fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders and extend the crown of the head toward the floor to create a long spine, straightening your legs as much as possible. Place your hands on the ground or grasp opposite elbows for a rag doll position.
Why it’s good: Great for relieving headaches but also relieving tension in the shoulders and lower back.
To do this pose: Sit tall on a blanket and cross your ankles. Inhale and lift your spine, and exhale as you take your left hand to your outer right knee. Place your right hand to the floor behind you for support. Inhale and lengthen; exhale and twist deeper. Switch sides and repeat the sequence.
Why it’s good: Twists are great for twisting out the belly. The torso holds a lot of stress for most people.
To do this pose: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with your knees directly below your hips and wrists, elbows and shoulders are perpendicular to the floor. Your head is a neutral position, looking at the floor. Exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, like a hissing cat. Inhale, coming back to neutral tabletop position.
Why it’s good: This pose is great for releasing the kinks out of your back and shoulders.
To do this pose: From tabletop position, inhale and lift your sit bones and chest toward the ceiling while your belly sinks to the floor. Lift your head to look forward.
Why it’s good: Cow pose is the perfect complement to Cat Pose for low back and shoulder stretch.
To do this pose: Kneel on your mat with your knees hips-width apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
Why it’s good: The perfect pose for resting and relaxing as you rest your forehead on the ground.
Legs Up the Wall
To do this pose: Sit close to a wall, lie back onto the ground, then scoot your bottom as close to the wall as possible and send your legs up. Rest with your arms by your sides.
Why it’s good: Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the blood to rush back to the heart rather than pool in your lower extremities.
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