Yoga Therapy for Atherosclerosis

Aug 13th, 2017
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A river is a stream of water that flows through a passage in the surface of the ground. It flows continuously until it ends into an ocean, a lake or a bigger river. If the flow is however interrupted, deviated or blocked, the flow either becomes slow or gets broken into parts. A similar condition, atherosclerosis, could happen in the human circulatory system. Atherosclerosis can result in life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis refers to a thickening and hardening of arterial walls in the arteries. It is a general term describing any hardening (and loss of elasticity) of medium or large arteries. It should not be confused with atherosclerosis, which is a specific form of arteriosclerosis caused by the build up of fatty plaques and cholesterol in the artery.
Arteries contain what is called an endothelium, a thin layer of cells that keeps the artery smooth and allows blood to flow easily. Atherosclerosis starts when the endothelium becomes damaged, allowing LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) to accumulate in the artery wall. The body sends macrophage white blood cells to clean up the cholesterol, but sometimes the cells get stuck at the affected site. Over time, this results in plaque being built up, consisting of bad cholesterol and macrophage white blood cells.
The plaque clogs up the artery, disrupting the flow of blood around the body. The disease disrupts the flow of blood around the body, posing serious cardiovascular complications.

Risk Factors

In addition to aging, various factors increase the risk of atherosclerosis:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Tobacco smoking
• Diabetes
• Obesity
• Physical inactivity
• Family history
• Diet – eating high fats and cholesterol food

Causes

The most common causes of atherosclerosis are
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Fatty foods
• Aging
• Smoking
• High level of sugar in the blood

Symptoms

The symptoms of atherosclerosis depend on which arteries are affected:

Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy for atherosclerosis improves the blood flow to the organs by neuromuscular action.
Practice of pranayama stimulates and changes the lumen size of the arterioles, which helps to regulate the circulation.
Asana and pranayama by their segmental spinal nerve actions can voluntarily alter regional blood flow and the blood pressure. The arteriolar resistance is extremely important to the regulation of blood flow in the body as a whole and also in different regions of the body.
Specifically, standing and seated poses stimulate the neuromuscular action. Twisting and backward bending poses massage the internal organs. Restorative pose and pranayama induce pneumatic function in the body, improving the respiratory and circulatory pressure in the body.
Here are few recommended asanas and pranayama for a simple practice. It is advisable to practise these under the guidance of a yoga teacher, particularly if you had medical treatment such as an open heart surgery or a history of stroke before.

 


Extended Easy Pose

1. Sit in sukhasana (easy posture).
2. Keep the seat firm and stretch both arms up.
3. Place the left hand on the left side slightly away and in line with the hip.
4. Exhale, stretch the right arm over the head, palm facing down and upper arm over the right ear.
5. Bring the whole left side of the trunk forward and take the right side back.
6. Keep the head in line with the spine and take it slightly back. Turn the head and either look up or straight.
7. Stay for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing evenly.

 

Benefits: The trunk gets a lift and an extended lateral stretch. The pose develops the chest and reduces fat around the chest and the waist.

 

Half Cobra Pose

1. Lie facing down with feet together and toes pointing back.
2. Bend the elbows and place the palms on the sides of the chest.
3. Keep the legs straight pointing backwards, inhale, press the palms and raise the head and lift the chest up.
4. Place the elbows underneath the shoulders, pressing the abdomen on the mat. Press the sacrum and pubis down.
5. Take the head further back and look back, without constricting the neck.
6. Stay for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing evenly.

Benefit: The spinal region is toned and the chest is fully expanded. It massages and expands the lungs and stimulates the abdominal organs.

Reclined Thunderbolt Pose

1. Sit in vajrasana with hands behind the feet.
2. Press the palms down to lean back, placing the elbows on the ground, and lower the trunk onto the mat.
3. Stretch the arms over the head and lengthen the trunk. Clasp the elbows; inhale, and stretch the arms over the head.
4. Press the thighs and knees down, keeping the knees together without straining them.
5. Stay for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing evenly.

Benefits: The abdominal organs and the pelvic region are stretched. The lungs are fully expanded.

 

Reclining Bound Angle Pose

1. Sit in baddha konasana with a bolster placed vertically behind the back.
2. Press the palms down to lean back, placing the elbows on the mat, and lower the trunk onto the bolster.
3. Turn the upper arms out, palms facing up.
4. Stay for 5 to 10 minutes, breathing evenly.

Benefits: This supports the back, chest is well expanded and breathing becomes fuller.

 

 

Fish Pose Breathing

1. Sit in either sukhasana or padmasana and place a bolster horizontally behind the back.
2. Lie back over the bolster, keeping the shoulders back and extend the neck.
3. Turn the upper arms out, palms facing up.
4. Stay for 5 to 10 minutes, breathing evenly.

Benefit: The chest is expanded and the lungs gain elasticity. The pose stretches and stimulates the organs of the belly and the front throat.

 

 

Easy Breathing

1. Sit in either sukhasana or padmasana. Place both palms on the chest. Close the eyes and observe the breathing.
2. Exhale completely and take few normal breaths. Inhale deeply and steadily, drawing the lower trunk up, filling the chest to the collarbones the entire breast band.
3. Maintain the lift of the chest; exhale slowly and deeply. Keep the length and volume of the breath even.
4. Relax the eyes and throat, without straining the lungs. Repeat this for about 6 or more cycles.

Benefits: This exercises the lung and heart regulates the breath, maintaining a rhythmic heart rate and lung capacity. It improves the inhaling and exhaling capacity.

 

Moon Piercing Breathing

1. Sit in a comfortable posture like padmasana or sukhasana.
2. Stretch the left arm, resting the back of the left wrist on the left knee. Touch the left thumb with the left index finger in Jnana Mudra.
3. Place the right hand by the nostrils. Bend the index and the middle fingers towards the palm; bring the ring and the little fingers towards the thumb in Vishnu Mudra.
4. Close the right nostril with the right thumb completely.
5. Inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril, filling the lungs completely.
6. Keeping the left nostril completely blocked, exhale slowly, steadily and deeply through the right nostril until the lungs feel empty.
7. This is one cycle. Repeat the same – inhale through left and exhale through the right – for about 6 to12 rounds. The exhalation is always longer than the inhalation at a ratio of 1:2.

Benefits: This helps to widen the blood vessels (vasodilation) and cool the system.

Conclusion To maintain a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet that is low in saturated salt and cholesterol. Practise asana and pranayama regularly for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Keep a healthy weight by regular exercises, which are useful particularly if one is either overweight or obese. Yoga therapy for atherosclerosis makes the respiration more stable and heals any respiratory and cardiac disorders. Through the practice, blood receives larger amount of oxygen; the nerves become calm and purified. As a result, body and mind become healthier, which make one stronger and serene.

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