Can Yoga Really be good for your Heart…Rate?

Isn’t it all the rage…a yoga practice of any kind today is “trés uber-chic”. As well, it is also finally making its way through the medical industry and being referred by many of our health practitioners. Everyone is doing it, walking with a mat often accompanied in a funky carrying case, and enjoying the benefits of one of the oldest practices in the world. However, the question that is still debated and scientifically challenged; can yoga sustain activity that elevates your heart rate?

It is fairly untraditional to link our cardio-respiratory health to yoga. These are terms that generally do not go together but with the influx of fusion yoga like “acro yoga”, “SUP yoga” and “buti yoga” these classes are capturing the mainstream yogi. If you have found yoga because it spoke to you in a different way than the traditional aerobic workouts at the gym, don’t be dissuaded. You can and probably still are getting your heart rate pumped.

When we talk about the benefits of cardio exercise we are truly measuring how efficiently the heart moves blood and oxygen to the muscles. There is no doubt that when we stretch efficiently and safely, we feed our joints with blood flow. Circulation is increased and therefore new oxygenated blood cells are travelling further down the musculature system, increasing the work of the heart. To ensure the heart is attaining cardiovascular fitness we need to balance the intensity of the yoga sequence, the length of time or duration of the practice, and consistency and frequency of how often we are practicing. However, we need to measure this combination of intensity, duration, and frequency with ANY physical regime for it to matter to the heart. There are countless benefits attributed to yoga like weight-loss, heart disease protection, freedom from depression and anxiety, increased flexion, and preventative joint care, but your heart health is enough of a reason to get on the mat.

With any yoga practice, advanced, beginner, flow, or alignment based, if you follow and practice these 5 principles, your cardio element of your weekly practices will be elevated.

  1. Learn some basic Pranayama (breath) exercises and open and close your practice with them like a traditional warm up and cool down.
  2. Practice your sun series and run through it 5 to 10 rounds. It is a flow of 9 basic poses that heat up the muscle and body bringing a cardio element to your practice.
  3. Start adding inversions and holding them for longer durations as part of your practice. Adho Mukah Svanasana (Downward Dog) is considered an inversion.
  4. Mixing high and low intensity in your practice is beneficial to your heart health. Consider calming your body with Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose/Baby Shoulder stand) to bring the nervous system back to neutral after a high intense inversion.
  5. Practice holding all your poses for longer durations. Some milestones to attempt would be 5 – 10 breaths. You will quickly notice the duration of pose will directly affect the intensity and increase your heart rate.

Yoga is a lifestyle. It is also a fitness regime. But once the two paths intersect it often becomes a practice that you carry around with you everywhere you go. And sometimes you get to take it in a funky carry case feeling all uber chic, from the inside out!


Leave a Reply