The Benefits of Yoga Plus Exercise

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Experts say yoga has a variety of components that make it beneficial for the whole body. Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy
  • Researchers say yoga combined with regular exercise is more beneficial than stretching.
  • Experts say yoga can boost immunity, increase flexibility and reduce anxiety, among other benefits.
  • They say yoga can be tiring, so it’s best to consult a medical professional before starting a regular routine.

When added to an exercise regimen, yoga is more effective than stretching in supporting cardiovascular health and wellbeing, according to a study published today in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

The researchers recruited 60 people who had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome for the study.

The scientists divided the participants into two groups. One group completed structured yoga for 15 minutes followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The other group completed stretching exercises with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

Both groups exercised five times a week.

At the start of the study, blood pressure, anthropometry, high-sensitivity c-reactive protein, glucose, and lipid levels were measured in both groups.

All participants received Framingham and Reynolds risk scores.

There were no differences between the groups in terms of age, gender, smoking rate, body mass index (BMI), mean arterial pressure, heart rate and pulse pressure.

At the end of the three months, the researchers noted:

  • A 10 mmHg decrease in blood pressure in the group performing yoga and aerobic exercise compared to 4 mmHg in the group performing stretching and aerobic exercise.
  • Both groups saw a decrease in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate.
  • The group performing yoga and aerobic exercise reduced their resting heart rate and cardiovascular risk over 10 years, assessed using the Reynolds risk score.

Scientists don’t fully understand why yoga would have such a benefit in improving cardiovascular health over stretching, but believe the results point to a definite benefit of adding yoga to an exercise regimen.

“This trial is an important addition to the evidence supporting mind-body therapies to control hypertension,” said Dr. Yu-Ming Nicardiologist specializing in non-invasive cardiology at the MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California.

“There has been greater attention to the impact of stress on blood pressure in recent years, with several small studies suggesting that everything from transcendental meditation to breathing exercises to exercise therapy can improve blood pressure control,” Ni told Healthline. “Mind-body techniques have been shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system, making blood pressure less variable and easier to control.”

“Yoga has been shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system in the same way, and has already been observed to lower blood pressure in small studies,” Ni added.

In one such study, 60 people were randomly assigned to an exercise program that included yoga or stretching and standard dynamic exercises.

“The reduction in blood pressure in both groups speaks to the value of exercise in lowering blood pressure,” Ni said. “It is important to note that the 10 mmHg drop in blood pressure is like the effects of a single blood pressure medication, so it is a significant drop in blood pressure. Patients with high blood pressure should consider mind-body therapies, including yoga, as ways to manage stress as part of an overall lifestyle approach to controlling blood pressure.

Yoga began as a spiritual process, but many people view it as physical and mental exercise and relaxation.

In the United States, yoga often emphasizes physical poses, breathing techniques and meditation, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Yoga is really everything. You get a bit of everything and it can benefit just about anyone. Whether you are an Olympic athlete or work at a desk for 8 hours a day, there is a type of yoga for every body type,” said Montana Mitchellmaster trainer at YogaSix.

“What sets yoga apart from other fitness modalities is the mind-body connection, which is initiated through intentional and specific breathing techniques,” Mitchell told Healthline. “These breathing techniques, also known as pranayama, activate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digestion) and lower your resting heart rate. Breathing is the root of yoga. Therefore, whichever genre best suits the needs of the practitioner, there will always be some sort of cardio health benefit at play.”

Experts say that when you practice yoga, you pay attention to your physical body and your emotional well-being.

“I believe yoga offers mind-body benefits beyond stretching alone,” said Lisa Killionyoga teacher and certified holistic health coach based in Rowayton, Connecticut.

“Stretching is great for the body, but it doesn’t address underlying issues like stress and anxiety, which can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular health issues,” she told Healthline. . “Yoga can help with both.”

“Stretching is a component of yoga,” Killion added. “A well-rounded yoga practice offers a set of tools including stretching and strengthening, as well as mind-focusing activities like breathing exercises and meditation. Used together, a yoga practitioner can calm the system nervous and balance the body and mind. This rebalancing affects all systems of the body, including cardiovascular health.“

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, although people in the Western world only got their start when yoga masters began traveling to the West in the late 1800s.

Since then, research frequently shows that there are physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga regularly, according to The basics of yoga.

“We believe the reason yoga provides benefits is multifaceted,” said dr. Rigveda Tadwalkarcardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

“From a blood pressure perspective, possible mechanisms include greater bioavailability of nitric oxide, leading to vasodilation, as well as lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone implicated in increased blood pressure. blood pressure, especially when it’s dysregulated,” Tadwalkar told Healthline. “More generally, we believe that yoga helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, by promoting the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn slows the heart rate, and calms the body, promoting relaxation.

It would make sense for yoga to involve such a diversity of important pathways, as the practice itself is complex, involving a mixture of physical, mental and spiritual components.

When broken down, this includes exercises related to focus, meditation, breathing, posture, and strength.

Some of the benefits of yoga are:

  • Improved flexibility and strength
  • Decreased anxiety and stress
  • Improved mental health and self-esteem
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved quality of life
  • Boost immunity
  • Better balance, posture and body awareness
  • Increase cardiovascular function and improve bone health
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve brain function

“For people with high blood pressure who are at higher risk for a heart attack, practicing yoga has been shown to improve cardiovascular health compared to simple stretching,” said Allison Benzaken, a certified yoga instructor in Yin Yoga by Kaia Yoga who has completed 500 hours of Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training. “Why? Because when practicing yoga, derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, “to unite” or union, the practitioner benefits not only from the physical aspects of yoga practice (body postures), but also from the effects that the practice has on mind and spirit (union).

“Typically, during a yoga class, instructors include pranayama (breath control), chanting, and meditation in the practice, which not only relaxes the physical body but helps calm the mind,” Benzaken said. at Healthline. “It helps relieve general stress and anxiety in a person.”

One way to add yoga to your regular workouts is to replace your warm-up or cool-down with 10-15 minutes of yoga.

“If you’ve never taken a yoga class before, I suggest you start with foundation-level classes or a few private lessons at a local studio,” Killion says. “Give yourself 5-10 classes to familiarize yourself with the practice and learn the basic poses and breathing. Listen to your breath…if you’re breathing too fast or holding your breath, that’s your cue to come out of the pose and rest. If you have any questions or hear something that doesn’t make sense during class, ask the teacher after class.

When you start an exercise program, experts say you should talk with your doctor about exercise and what’s safe for you.

“Although moderate exercise is safe for most people, experts suggest speaking with a doctor first if you have heart or kidney disease and/or type 1 or 2 diabetes,” said said Benzaken. “Also, speak with a doctor first if you are currently being treated for a serious medical condition or have recently had surgery.”

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