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Who looks outward dreams; who looks inward, wakes.


February 24, 2012 by Dr Karen Hack

29 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart disease (or ‘cardiovascular disease’) and stroke represent two of the three leading causes of death in Canada, with one Canadian dying every seven minutes from one of these potentially fatal conditions.

These statistics seem almost unbelievable given that there is SO much we can do to optimize our cardiovascular and circulatory function!  It is commonly understood that ‘diet and exercise’ form two of the key foundations of a healthy lifestyle.  What we are now slowly starting to accept is the role that stress and our emotional health can play in our ultimate wellbeing.

By combining asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing), yoga provides the perfect opportunity to increase our physical fitness while moderating stress levels and improving emotional health.  A review of 70 studies on the heart healthy benefits of yoga found that a regular yoga practice yields beneficial changes in numerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Yoga has been shown to promote weight loss and blood pressure reduction while regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. In addition, even a short term yoga practice promotes ‘sympathovagal balance’, a fancy term meaning that yoga helps to balance the ‘fight or flight’ high stress sympathetic nervous system, with the ‘rest and digest’ calming influence of the parasympathetic nervous system.  Yoga decreases our perception of stress as well as our reactivity to these perceived stressors, helping to prevent us from making rash decisions we may later regret.  As an added bonus, practicing yoga has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, tension and fatigue!

So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, or just looking for a way to improve your overall health – pull out the yoga mat and start moving (and breathing!).

-Dr. Katie Weststrate, RHN, RYT, MScCH, ND

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada – www.heartandstroke.ca
Innes, K., Bourguignon, C., Taylor, A. Risk Indices Associated with the Insulin Resistance
Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease, and Possible Protection with Yoga: A Systematic Review. http://www.jabfp.org. 2005