The theme for International Yoga Day 2022 is ‘Yoga for Humanity’ which portrays how during the peak of Covid-19 pandemic, Yoga served humanity in reducing suffering and even heart patients vouched for the fact that practising Yoga at home helped them to stay calm and cope with the pandemic. It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating biological as well as psychological effects and surviving the varied lockdowns took a severe toll on the mental health of people as they dealt with the death of loved ones to the coronavirus, loss of jobs, hit in the incomes and uncertainty of the future that resulted in feelings of anxiety and despair.
In addition to this, lockdowns led to restrictions on several recreational activities like shopping, going to the movies, eating out, exercising outdoors or in gyms and social interactions with friends and family – activities which would otherwise help in alleviating stress. Practising Yoga has helped in attaining mental peace and positive attitude, which along with physical well-being played an important role in fighting the coronavirus.
However, did you know that apart from being beneficial for holistic health, Yoga is also believed to improve heart health and combats heart disease? In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute, shared, “Combating heart disease includes therapeutic lifestyle measures, medications and interventional procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery, in equal measures. However, when we talk of lifestyle measures, it is only diet control and physical activity and weight reduction. We often neglect the fourth component which is managing mental stress.”
He explained, “It has been shown that anxiety and depression as well as psychosocial stressors such as work and marital stress are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. With chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, which can lead to inflammation of the heart arteries and increased blood pressure, resulting in an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes and this is where Yoga has an important role to play. Yoga may directly stimulate the vagus nerve, thus increasing the parasympathetic activity. At the same time, it pacifies the sympathetic nervous system and slows down the heart, while teaching the muscles and mind to relax. Yoga is also believed to improve heart health by increasing circulation and blood flow. In addition, practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels which are important risk factors for heart disease.”
Dr Tilak Suvarna added, “Yoga is also very good for our general well-being. Yoga is designed to promote physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Yoga means joining the mind with the body, in a harmonious development. It encourages the principle of ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’. It is an art and science of healthy living. Yoga and meditation are known to be beneficial for holistic health. Yoga is composed of: stretching exercises and physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama) and concentration techniques (meditation).”
He concluded, “Simple asana and pranayama can stimulate production of “happy hormones”. Pranayama or conscious breathing quickly lowers blood pressure and also helps in improving respiratory health. Surya Namaskar involves synchronizing breathing with body movement and has been shown to increase muscle strength and body endurance, improve spinal flexibility and improve immunity. Meditation is a great option to incorporate into your regular routine to reduce anxiety and stress. Thus, Yoga is not only good for our heart health but also gives positive energy to both, the body as well as the mind.”