4 Poses for a Healthy Heart

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key causes of heart disease. Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels result from stress, anxiety, poor diet and lack of physical activity. The American Heart Association says healthy eating, exercise and meditation are recommended lifestyle choices to prevent and reverse heart disease.

Yoga is a physical practice that emphasizes breath, focus and meditation. Practicing yoga brings a deeper awareness of the body, mind and emotions allowing the yogi to become more in tuned with their physical and mental health. Yoga builds cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, and improves respiratory function and heart rate. It also boosts blood circulation, builds muscle, and decreases inflammation.

Step onto your mat; these four poses will help improve your heart health.

Padangusthasana: Big Toe Pose

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, place hands on the hips. Inhale, then exhale folding forward to grab your big toes or hang forward and grab your opposite elbows. Draw the belly in and lift your sit bones towards the sky. Activate the quadriceps and allow the neck and head to relax down. Bend your knees slightly if your hamstrings are tight. If flexible, draw the torso toward the legs. Hold for 5 to 10 breath cycles.

Benefits: Strengthens the thighs and stretches the hamstrings and calves. Calms the brain, relieves stress, and reduces anxiety and mild depression. Therapeutic for high blood pressure.

Janu Sirsasana A: Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

From a seated position with legs extended forward, bend the right knee outward to a 90-degree angle and press the right foot into the inner left thigh. Grab the left shin or foot, inhale, square the hips, and lengthen the torso over the straight leg. Exhale, fold forward slowly from the groins. Extend the spine and lengthen through the chest. Keep your back long and flat; you want to avoid rounding of the back. Pull left toes back toward you and extend through the left heel while firmly pressing the right foot into the left thigh. Allow your sit bones to press down toward the floor. Stay here for 5 to 10 breath cycles and switch sides.

Benefits: Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings and groin. Calms the brain, relieves mild depression, reduces anxiety and fatigue, and alleviates headaches and insomnia. Therapeutic for high blood pressure.


Supta Padangusthasana: Reclining Big Toe Pose

Lie on your back with arms along sides and extended legs activated. Rest your head on the floor. Inhale; bend the right knee and clasp the right big toe with right fingers. Place the left hand on top of the upper left thigh to stabilize the left leg down. Actively reach through the pointed toes. Exhale; straighten the right leg as far as your flexibility allows you to go. Inhale; lift the head up toward the right leg and keep the left leg down. Hold for five breath cycles, inhale head back down to the floor, and exhale right leg down. Switch sides.

Benefits: Stretches the hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins and calves. Strengthens the knees. Relieves backache and sciatica. Therapeutic for high blood pressure


Setu Bandha Sarvangasana: Bridge Pose

Lie on your back. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor hip-width apart. Bring your feet as close to the sitting bones as possible. Inhale; press your feet and arms actively into the floor and lift your hips up. Firm, but do not harden the glutes. Clasp your hands together, walk the shoulders down, and press into the floor with your feet and arms. Open the chest and reach the front of your legs and pelvis toward the sky. Hold for five breath cycles, exhale down, and repeat 2 to 3 more times.

Benefits: Stretches the chest, neck and spine. Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression. Stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid. Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache and insomnia. Therapeutic for high blood pressure.

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