I'm a sap for Valentine's Day. I just love that there's a special day set aside when we can do both the silly and the sincere to demonstrate our love to the special person or people in our life. It's the collective expression of love that makes this day fun. It seems that on a small level, we are raising the vibration of our surroundings.
It's a fact that our thoughts affect our body, especially our cardiovascular and immune systems. Negative thoughts and feelings have a deleterious impact, and love and happiness have a beneficial impact. The practice of yoga and meditation are like Valentine's Day for our health and happiness.
Despite advances in both prevention and treatment, heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women in the US. Stress causes the coronary arteries to constrict, reducing blood flow to the heart. It makes the platelets stickier and more likely to form blood clots that may induce a heart attack. Dr. Dean Ornish, MD, global authority on heart disease and its reversal, touts yoga as perhaps the most effective stress-reduction method ever invented. Reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and heart arrhythmias, as well as decreased anxiety and depression, all make yoga a good choice for heart health.
Asana, the physical practice of yoga, gets our heart pumping faster. The benefits continue off the mat in the form of a generally lower heart rate, due to more oxygen circulating in the blood. Mindfulness of the breath and the body are essential on our mat. Over time, we naturally carry this mindfulness into our lives off the mat. That’s the lasting effect of our yoga practice. Mindfulness - being less reactive, feeling more in control of our emotions and circumstances.
One of my favorite poses for the heart is Anjali Mudra, a hand placement used in an easy seated pose, Sukasana, or a standing pose such as mountain, Tadasana. Achieved by gently touching thumbs into sternum (the bony plate at the center of the rib cage), palms touching, broadening the shoulder blades to spread the chest open from the inside, and creating space under the armpits bringing elbows into alignment with the wrists.
Anjali Mudra is synonymous with returning to one’s heart. As we bring our hands together at our center, we are literally connecting the right and left hemispheres of our brain, and creating an energetic circle between the hands and the heart.
And back to Valentine’s Day – break out the dark chocolate (70% or above). Research shows it is heart healthy, decreasing blood sugar and bad LDL cholesterol, and raising good HDL cholesterol.
I invite you to share a comment about your favorite heart opening yoga poses, or, to share ways in which yoga has made your heart healthier or happier.