Calming Yoga Workout
With cardiovascular disease still holding strong as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States (and with women more prone to death from it than men), now’s the time to make a heart-smart workout part of your routine. As Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, notes, the fate and health of this vital organ is almost entirely in our hands. “Nearly everybody — 95 percent or more — can prevent and reverse heart disease through changes in diet and exercise,” he says.
When you think “heart-healthy workout,” heavy-duty exercise regimens naturally come to mind. But fitness that boosts the heart isn’t just about getting it to pound faster. It also involves slowing it down. Chronic emotional stress can wreak havoc on its rhythm, functioning, and blood flow, says Dr. Roy Ziegelstein, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Reducing stress with the help of strategies like yoga, meditation, and controlled slow breathing, he says, “is crucial to developing and maintaining a healthy heart.” The following plan will nourish and strengthen your ticker, not just by making it work harder, but by reducing tension, too — something you can definitely take to heart.
Achieving and sustaining a positive emotional state is critical to overall heart health. To that end, we’ve included a relaxation component to our heart-health plan — yoga moves that help release tension and increase blood flow.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend increases circulation and strengthens the heart while stretching the lower back and hamstrings. It also activates the pineal and pituitary glands, and releases serotonin. To do it, stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Exhale and bend forward from the hips, stretching the top of the head toward the floor. Put your palms on the floor or rest them on your shins or ankles. Press feet into the floor and feel the stretch in the back of the legs and lower back. Hold for three to five minutes. Set your Zen Timer to Repeatedly Chime every 3 to 5 minutes. Place hands on hips or walk hands up the legs as you slowly roll up to a standing position. Repeat two times and increase as you improve at this exercise.
adapted from Body + Soul Magazine, 2009
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