By Mitra Malek
From slowing your heart rate to giving it a power-building boost, yoga is an all-embracing way to help keep your ticker happy.
Many poses are so simple you might have been doing them for years without knowing they are yoga shapes. Just add some slow and full breathing, and you’re practicing the ancient art. Almost any pose is good for your heart in some way because yoga relaxes your mind and body, keeping stress at bay. Still, every pose has its own special benefits. Below are three that offer distinct features that speak to your heart, whether it needs a break from racing or a bit of revving.
Mitra Malek has been a yoga teacher since 2006 and is a former senior editor of Yoga Journal.
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees so that your feet are parallel and hip-width apart, just ahead of your buttocks. Press down through your feet, arms and palms, lifting your hips. Keep your knees in line with your hips, neck neutral. Start each inhale with expansion in the belly, then the rib cage and finally the chest. Take 5–10 breaths.
Benefit: Breathe more easily. Stretching the muscles of your chest and between the ribs allows you to inhale and exhale completely, regulating your heartbeat.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Inhale and lengthen your spine by lifting the crown of your head. Keep your shoulders down. Exhale and bend slightly through the knees, folding forward from the hips. You can bring your hands to your hips to feel the action of the fold there. Bend your knees more deeply if your lower back is rounding a lot. Release your head. Take 5–10 breaths.
Benefit: Slow down your heart rate. Forward bends are calming, relaxing your nervous system.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step your left foot straight back, until your right knee is over your right ankle. Keep your back knee soft. Inhale and straighten both legs as you lift your arms alongside your ears. Exhale and bend your back knee, dropping it toward the ground, until your right knee comes back over your right ankle as you lower your arms. Repeat 5–8 times, and switch sides.
Benefit: Strengthen your heart. Lifting and lowering takes cardiovascular work, getting your heart to pump faster.