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WHO (World Health Organisation) has recognized cardiovascular or heart diseases to be the leading cause of deaths globally. Cardiovascular diseases include a number of conditions like heart attack, failure, arrhythmia that affect the structure of or functions of the heart. Sedentary lifestyles, stress and improper diet have been identified as major causes of cardiovascular diseases besides hereditary factors. Research has proven that yoga can help improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other risk factors. The American Heart Association has proven that yoga can also help reverse heart diseases to an extent.

Cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important aspects of health. It is defined as the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the muscle tissues and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement. This type of fitness is brought about by sustained physical activity and is commonly known as a cardio workout. A person’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles is affected by many physiological parameters, including heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output, and maximal oxygen consumption.

Yoga takes the cardiac route

Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes. Yoga postures and breathing techniques are both beneficial in keeping the heart healthy and maintaining a good circulation of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to every cell in the body. Yoga can help eliminate stress which is the main cause of cardiovascular or heart diseases. A good cardio workout can be achieved through surya namaskars (sun salutations) and through continuous flow or movement between postures which is commonly called vinyasa. Various breathing practices like bhastrika, kapalbhati, anulom vilom pranayama help improve lung capacity, cleanse the blood; reduce blood pressure, blood glucose levels; lower cholesterol, anxiety and stress. All these factors are important to keep the heart healthy along with a diet rich in Vitamin C and E. Reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco can also help lower cardiovascular risks.

Brahmari pranayama is another useful technique to lower blood pressure and heart rate as it increases parasympathetic (rest-digest drive of the nervous system) dominance in the body. Yoga nidra (a relaxation technique), chanting and various meditation techniques have also shown to help boost cardiovascular health and emotional well-being of a person.