Healthy Living

The Yoga Program for a Healthy Heart

Yoga has so many benefits, from relaxation to flexibility to strengthening. It also makes a great companion to other forms of movement, such as cardiovascular exercises. One of the best assets of yoga for those with heart disease or preventing heart disease is its stress-relieving benefits. Yoga has been proven to help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, and improve respiratory function, among other benefits for heart disease patients.

Yoga postures were first used to prepare the body to sit in meditation. Simply by sitting and focusing on your breath can do wonders for the nervous system. Doing just a few simple poses to stretch the body will help make sitting, whether on the ground or in a chair, much easier.Here is a simple series you can do in just 10 minutes in the morning followed by 5 minutes of meditation/breath work.

Child’s Pose: 

This is one of the best and easiest poses in yoga.  It is extremely grounding and a great way to block out the physical world and have your moment of silence. Think of a baby in the womb! Come on to the floors on your knees. Knees can be together or wide. Bring your forehead to the ground as you sit back on your heels as much as possible.  If you have tightness, your hips may not reach your heels, in which case you can place a blanket in that space if it is uncomfortable.  If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor, then place a blanket or pillow in that space.  Arms can be in front or to your sides. Breathe.  Let your body be heavy. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.

Cat Cow:

Come on to your hands and knees with a flat back.  Wrists underneath your shoulders.  Knees underneath your hips.  Back is flat.  So you are creating a nice square with the floor.  This is your starting position.  Hands and knees stay in place.  Only thing that moves is your tailbone and neck. Inhale, as you lift the tailbone towards the sky and look up. Exhale, as you rotate and tuck the tailbone and tuck the chin, arching your spine up towards the sky. Continue this for 5 rounds of breath, i.e. 5 inhales and 5 exhales, in coordination with your movements.

Downward Facing Dog:

Down Dog is probably the most well-known pose in yoga.  It’s sort of a full-body workout in one pose.  From cat-cow pose, take your hands one hand-length forward.  This is a general rule for your ideal length. Spread your fingers and start to life your tailbone towards the sky. If you have tight hamstrings or calves, your heels will not reach the ground.  No worries. Let your heart sink through towards the ground; release any tension in your neck. There should be equal weight in your hands and in your feet.  Your body is in effect making a triangle with your tailbone being the highest point. Breathe.  Stay here for five breaths.

Forward Fold:

Start to tippy-toe your feet forward slowly. Let the arms and head dangle. Slowly roll up the spine very slowly stacking one vertebrae on top of the other.

Mountain Pose:

Come to standing and parallel your feet.  Look down at your feet.  They most likely are not parallel. Most everyone stands with their feet pointing out too much.  When you actually parallel your feet, you will probably feel a bit pigeon toed. Stick your tailbone out like a duck and then slightly scoop your tailbone up. Lengthen up through your chest. Draw the shoulder points back. Breathe.

Warrior II: 

Take a giant step back with your right foot.  Your heels should be in line with each other. Bend your front knee so that it is right over your ankle. Lift the energy up the torso and extend your arms out. Gaze off your front fingers.  Feel powerful like a Warrior.  Keep pose for 5 breaths. You’re extending your energy field in five directions:  the energy in both feet, the energy extending out through both hands, and the energy rising up the torso. Repeat other side.

Downward Facing Dog:

Come back to Down Dog.

Pigeon Pose:

From Down Dog, draw your left knee forward towards your left wrist.  Set your calf on the ground – it should be at an angle. Walk your back leg back so that it is straight as possible. Keep your hips level.  Avoid collapsing to one side. You should already be feeling a stretch in your left hip. If you are able, you can recline down onto your forearms and possibly further, depending on the openness of your hips. Stay here for 2-5 minutes.  Breathe! Step back into Down Dog. Repeat other side.


Sit crossed-leg on the floor, if that is comfortable. If not, sit in a chair with your feet touching the ground. Take 3 large inhales/exhales from your belly and then return to your normal breath. Stesttart with a simple 5 minute meditation and work up from there. A meditation can consist of focusing on your breath, a prayer or chant, or simply being an observer of all the things that go through your mind. By giving your mind liberty to run, it will finally start to slow down and eventually quieten. Instead of trying to quieten the mind, just observe it without judgement. Continue to take as many deep breaths into the belly throughout to fill the body and cells with fresh oxygen.

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