Tag Archives: yoga

Improve the Health of Your Heart with Yoga

IMG_2757A new study suggests more evidence that yoga is good for your heart. Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center, aware of the significant benefit of yoga on cardiovascular health, studied the effect of the practice on atrial fibrillation (AF). They found that yoga reduced symptomatic AF episodes.

According to the study report, AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. An arrythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat – it can be too fast, too slow or irregular. In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s internal electrical signals travel through the atria in a fast and chaotic way, causing the atria to quiver instead of contract. Even when asymptomatic, AF can increase the risk of stroke and can lead to heart failure in some people.

AF is associated with significant morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs. Quality of life is greatly affected, and depression and anxiety is often experienced. The effectiveness of current treatment strategies for AF is inconsistent and leaves much to be desired. Complementary or alternative forms of therapy, like yoga, that reduce or help to control the crippling symptoms of AF can make a huge difference.

After an initial observation period, patients with symptomatic paroxysmal AF in this recent study practiced yoga for 60 minutes twice a week for three months. Yoga practice reduced AF episodes, both with and without symptoms. Patients also showed reduced heart rates and blood pressure, as well as reported anxiety and depression.

Yoga, and other mind-body therapies, have been also shown to reduce hypertension, or high blood pressure. It is the most common risk factor for stroke, heart attack and kidney disease and is difficult to control adequately.

In 2007, Yale researchers reviewed 12 randomized, controlled trials comparing the mind-body therapies (MBT) of yoga, meditation and guided imagery alone or in combination with conventional treatment, as well as comparing conventional treatment alone to no intervention. They found that MBT significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Yoga and meditation significantly reduced SBP, while only yoga demonstrated significant reductions in DBP.

Of the three therapies reviewed, yoga reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure the most and, according to Medical News Today , was associated with reductions in vascular death rates as well as decreased overall cardiac risk.

“This review shows that there is some high quality scientific literature supporting the use of mind-body therapies as a treatment for hypertension, and the magnitude of effect is clinically significant,” said Ather Ali, ND, MPH, the lead author.

The yoga posture pictured above is called the upward bow, Urdhva Dhanurasana, or backbend. Stretching and releasing the muscles of the chest allows circulation to flow freely to the heart and lungs. By opening up the chest, complete expansion of the lungs results, encouraging proper breathing. Backbends aren’t only great for your health and lungs, they also stimulate the immune, lymphatic, digestive, nervous and reproductive system. Read more about the benefits of just this one posture here.

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The Mind-Body SHIFT

We are more than overdue for a change in modern Western medicine. Rather than just focusing on the use of pills to block or slow the symptoms that signal disease, we need to start looking at the root causes of disease. This requires a total revolution in the Western model of medicine. It is time we learn from our neighbors in the East and not just focus on the body, but also the mind and spirit, to work toward healing. Instead of looking to just try to “fix” a single ailing body part, this new approach aims to treat the whole person.

As much as the pharmaceutical companies benefit from our dependence on their medications, any of us who have been popping pills regularly for an extended amount of time know there is a better solution out there for us. Most of us are not really getting any better. Our bodies are numbed, but the disease persists and as soon as we stop taking the pills, our symptoms return.

What is the alternative? A possible alternative solution combines conventional Western medicine with complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, massage, yoga, stress reduction techniques, biofeedback, and acupuncture. It focuses on nutrition and healthy, balanced diet. It encourages staying active with exercise and also learning to listen to our bodies when we need to just stop and rest. Sleep is so crucial for our body’s restoration processes, but so many of us think we can just run our bodies into the ground day in and day out. A recent study reported by NPR, in fact, suggests the more sleep we get, the more productive we are.

As we all struggle to handle increasing stress, both in our external environment and our internal landscape, it is time to look at different ways to approach living our best lives in the modern world. It is time for a MindBodySHIFT. Through this web site, my aim is to share and report Stories of Health, Inspiration, Faith, and Transformation. I cannot do this alone, for I am just one small part of a community of others also looking for positive changes in the health and well-being in lives around the world.

Please feel free to comment and email me stories you’d like me to include, give me feedback, and share links and ideas with each other. I look forward to sharing this journey with each and everyone one of you!

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Filed under Integrative Medicine, The Mind-Body Shift

Listening To Your Body

by Renée Canada

With the multiple, daily episodes making stone slabs out of my muscles, I decided it was time to start treating my body with more love. A couple weeks ago, I got my first massage in about two years (had it really been that long?) My wonderful bodyworker Deanna, who has grown used to the ebbs and flows of my body over the more than six years that I’ve been seeing her, was of course concerned by the changes going on with my health.

Deanna, a true master of energy healing, began the massage, as always, by cradling the sacrum, or tailbone, and moving her hands lightly over my lower body. “I’m feeling a really deep spasm in your sacrum,” she said. “Do you feel anything–” She broke off when she looked up at my head and saw my face contorting into the painful twisting of my jaw and cheek muscle contractions. “Wow,” she said. “I didn’t even realize you were going through an episode until I looked up at your face. But I could feel both your legs strongly pulling to the left.”

In just a few moments, she seemed to have figured out the connection between my facial muscle contortions and the weakness of the tailbone I sometimes feel that leads to total loss of strength in my legs, resulting in me either walking the funky chicken or falling in a heap on the floor. For several days after the massage, I felt as if my muscles had loosened up a bit and even when I had the episodes, I was able to release out of them more quickly and much less painfully.

Feeling energized and armed with a new sense of hope after realizing once again I would have to look outside Western medicine for ways to treat this mysterious disorder, I started getting back into doing more hard-core yoga. I’ve been stretching and strengthening my body along with Namaste Yoga on FitTV.

Now I usually detest doing yoga workouts along with a video. The teachers always go too fast, assuming you know all the poses from the start, and it feels like their sole purpose is to show off, not to help you experience any of the benefits of yoga for yourself. Namaste Yoga felt different from day one. The lead instructor started off slowly enough that you could manipulate your body into a posture before moving into the next one. Once she felt you had mastered a sequence, then she moved faster and/or added more challenging poses.

Instead of feeling defeated by yoga, I have been feeling rejuvenated and strengthened by it. I always find myself looking forward to the next episode’s challenges. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me especially, it’s been both a boost to my mental attitude as well as a wonderful way to help my body cope and relax more when facing the physical tension of an episode. I am constantly reminding myself: Don’t forget to breathe.

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