If you’ve taken a yoga class before, you may have seen someone quietly rolling up their yoga mat and gathering their things at the end of class, just before savasana (full relaxation pose). While some may be leaving for other obligations, many find those last 7-10 minutes of class downright difficult. As a yoga instructor, I realize some of the class may be making grocery lists, to do lists, or a things-to-worry-about lists in their head during this time: not relaxing. Relaxation can be hard to indulge in when those lists wait outside the door. With that being said, those minutes are some of the most physically as well as mentally valuable moments of class.

 Unfortunately, heart disease is the number one killer among both men and women, and in order to take care of our hearts we have to understand them. People that are more prone to hostility, success driven, or extremely schedule orientated tend to be more at risk for heart attacks. These behaviors are commonly known as type A behaviors. If this sounds familiar, having a hard time relaxing during savasana probably does too. All in all, if savasana seems difficult, then we just need to practice it more.

In honor of heart health month let’s shed some light on what exactly the practice of yoga does for our hearts. Many people start taking yoga as a form of physical exercise. If practiced with intensity the heart rate will speed up causing the yogi to reduce risk of a heart attack. Yet, the true gold mine of yoga is the stress relief. With stress reduction will come a spiral effect of other healthy decisions, one of them being weight loss. In other words, lowering the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body will then cause the body to decrease eating desires as well as keeping fat from remaining on the tummy area. Fat in the abdominal area will in fact create resistance to insulin, which will then raise blood sugar, and continue to increase the risk of heart disease. In other words, enjoying the last 7-10 minutes of class during savasana can actually lower stress levels enough to also lower cortisol, which will then make it easier to not only lose weight but also make the heart happy!

Practicing yoga is a wonderful, healthy, natural way to create a more optimistic life for oneself. Happiness in itself is paramount to creating a fit, full life with ease.

For more, try these other delightful heart healthy tips:

-Add more omega-3 fatty acids to the diet to fight inflammation (ex: salmon or flaxseeds)

-Always more fruits and veggies! These foods contain phytochemicals (bioflavonoids and antioxidants) that fight heart disease.

-H2O. H2O. H2O.

Source: Timothy McCall’s “Yoga As Medicine.”

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