I ♥ Yoga

Practice For Your Cardiovascular Health

One of the most powerful and exciting moments in the practice of yoga is the first time we feel an unexpected and incredible opening of the heart.  It’s a wonderful feeling that extends beyond the physical plane and moves through our emotional layers – sometimes we have a good cry, or experience a sense of deep peace, or a feeling of overwhelming joy and gratitude washes over us. In fact, experiencing these special moments are one of the reasons that so many of us keep coming back to our mats!

When one of my teachers shared that, 1200 years ago, the phrase; “Yoga is the untying of the knots of the heart” was written into the sacred literature of the Srimad Bhagavatam, many of us in class nodded slowly and smiled.

On the physical health dimension, science has spoken, the data is in, and Yoga has been proven to support heart health.  In fact, in the US, many Ivy League medical schools and top hospitals now offer yoga therapy programs for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular problems.

These positive outcomes have been reported for decades, starting with Dr. Dean Ornish’s ground-breaking lifestyle program to reverse heart disease, which includes yoga and meditation.  His guru, Swami Satchidananda shared yoga’s health secrets with his large following, and has influenced many yoga therapy schools.

But yoga is also an incredible help for other afflictions of the heart – our emotional heart.  The aspects of yoga that support stress reduction like deep breathing, mindfulness, awareness, being present, stimulate changes in our hormones, brain chemistry, as we support heart health both physically and emotionally.

Valentine’s Day is a highly-charged emotional day, as some of us may be enjoying the company of our romantic partner over a candlelit dinner, but many are alone and experiencing the raw feelings of grief and mourning.  Issues like grief, anxiety, depression, and PTSD are challenges that create cardiovascular issues, like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, disordered breathing, and disordered thinking.  Yoga is an effective tool in this domain as well.

Recent efforts have been helpful in bringing more awareness and compassion to mental illness, and I believe the next important frontier, is in prioritizing activities that support and optimize our mental health, as well as our physical wellness.  Challenging and vigorous yoga practices, done with awareness, can be wonderful for strengthening the heart, but the softer and gentler aspects of yoga are incredibly vital to heart health.

Nischala Joy Devi, the founding yoga teacher for Dean Ornish’s program, shares her wonderful interpretation of my favourite Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, 1:33.

“To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:

Kindness to those who are happy

Compassion for those who are less fortunate

Honor for those who embody noble qualities

Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values”


Deborah Devine is a trusted yoga teacher, speaker, wellness expert, and TV Host of Healing Yoga, airing daily on VisionTV and OneTelevision

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Categories: Yoga For Your Health