The heart is a hollow muscular organ of a somewhat conical form. It is located between the lungs and is enclosed in the pericardium (chest). The heart is divided into four chambers – two upper and two lower chambers; the upper, the right and the left atria; the lower, right and the left ventricle. The right atrium receives venous blood from the upper and the lower part of the body. The right ventricle pumps the blood to the lungs for oxygenation, and ?nally the left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood to the tissues of the body.
The heart has its own blood supply from two major vessels, the right and the left coronary arteries. These together supply blood to all surface of the heart. The conducting system of the heart is made up of specialised differentiated cardiac muscle ?bers and responsible for maintaining the normal cardiac rhythm and ensuring the proper coordination between the contraction of atria and ventricles. The sino-artrial node is the so-called pace maker of the heart. It is situated in the right atrium and has a higher rhythmical contraction then that of any other part of the cardiac muscle, and it is here that the impulse to initiate a cardiac contraction originates. All other parts of heart contract at the rate imposed upon them by the node, which is generally around 70-8- per minute at rest. In well-trained athletes, this is very low, 40-50 per minute. This is because the heart has hyperophied (abnormal enlargement) and its pump capacity is greater and the heart rate can therefore afford to be lower.
Heart disease usually describe to a range of diseases that affect the heart. It includes diseases of blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); heart infections; and heart defects from the birth (congenital heart defects).
“Heart disease” is also known as “cardiovascular disease”, which can be described as heart and circulatory disease. Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as infections and conditions that affect heart’s muscle, valves or beating rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.
The heart is like any other muscle, requiring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood for it to function. The coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle spread across the surface of the heart, beginning at the base of the aorta and branching out to all areas of the heart muscle. A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when a plaque ruptures, allowing a blood clot to form. This completely obstructs the artery, stopping all blood ?ow to part of the heart muscle, and that portion of muscle dies. There are other kinds of heart problems that may affect the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.
Common causes include:
• High blood pressure
• Coronary artery disease
• Obesity • High cholesterol
• Diabetes • Stress
• Smoking & Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine
• Heart defects or infection
There are many different types of heart disease and the symptoms may vary depending on the heart disease.
Typical symptoms include:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
• Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms
Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices. Yoga practice is the best way to keep the heart healthy.
Asana prepares the entire physical functioning of the body, while pranayama improves the physiology of the body.
Standing poses strengthen the cardiac reserve. Forward bends soothe the nerves and brings down the heart rate. Inverted pose improves the contractility. Back bending poses lengthen the cardiac muscle and the septum. This improves the contraction of heart and improves the quality to pump blood in and out. Twisting pose stretches the wall of the heart. The diaphragm is squeezed and the endurance of the heart is increased.
Pranayama, on the other hand, constantly changes the shape of the heart, thereby preventing blockage in the heart. Prana is the vital energy distributed by the nervous channel (Nadis). Pranayama improves the rhythm of the heart. One who practise pranayama consistently can reduce or increase the heart rate at will. Hence, one gains control over the involuntary mechanism of the body.
Yoga can be done by any one at any age at any health problems. The body system is taken care of, with all the internal organs functioning together to improve the cardiovascular efficiency.
Any practitioner can bene?t from the practice – whether as preventive, improvement or reverting to normal condition.
Practitioners are however advised to consult a doctor and seek advice of a Yoga teacher before trying any of the following postures.
Viparata Karani (Half Shoulder stand)
1. Lie ?at on the back, stretching the legs straight.
2. Inhale, bend the knees while pressing the palms down on the mat, then raise the hip up.
3. When the whole trunk is raised off the ground, bend the elbows and place the palms on the back of the pelvis. The weight of the body is on the palms, elbows and the upper arms.
4. Keep the legs straight and relaxed. Alternatively, slightly bend the knees.
5. Stay for about 2-5 minutes with normal breath.
This calms the mind and improves proper circulation of the blood ?ow and the prana to the entire body. The heart is a rested and improves the ability to contract.
Ardha Bhujangasana (Half Cobra Pose)
1. Lie down on the mat facing downwards. Stretch the legs back and lock your knee with pointed toes. Keep the palms on the side of the chest.
2. Inhale, raise the head and shoulders up, keeping the elbows down the shoulders, chest facing forward.
3. Stay for 20-30 seconds and relax.
This pose tones the muscles of the spine and the chest is expanded, this massages the heart.
Nadi Sodhana Pranayama (Alternative Nostril Cleansing Breathing)
This is an important pranayama as the name states its bene?ts. Nadi means the veins or arteries which circulate the Prana.
1. Sit in a comfortable posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana.
2. Stretch the left arm forward, resting the back of the left wrist on the left knee. Let the left thumb touch the left index ?nger in Jnana Mudra.
3. Bend the right arm. Bend the index and the middle ?nger towards the palm. Bring the ring and the little ?nger towards the thumb.
4. Press the ring and the little ?nger to block left nostril completely. Inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril ?lling the chest.
5. Bend the head down and rest the chin between the collar bone on the head of the sternum.
6. Keeping the right nostril completely blocked, exhale slowly through the left nostril.
7. Repeat the same by inhaling through the left nostril, closing the left and exhale completely through the right nostril.
8. This form one complete cycle, continue about 6 rounds slowly and rhythmically.
This puri?es the subtle energy channels (Nadis) of the body so the Prana (vital energy) ?ows more easily. It reduces blockage to the arteries and ventricles; and lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety.
Sitali Pranayama (Cooling Breathing)
Sitala means cooling.
1. Sit in a comfortable posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana, keeping the back erect.
2. Open the mouth and roll the tongue like a curled leaf outside.
3. Inhale through the curled tongue and exhale through the nostrils slowly and longer than the inhalation.
4. Repeat this for 5-10 rounds.
This cools the entire system and reduces the stress . It gives a soothing effect to the heart and opens all the chambers of the heart.
Sitakari Pranayama (Cooling Breathing)
Sitakari means that which causes cold. This is a variation of the Sitali Pranayama .
1. Instead of curling the tongue, folded it inwards so the tip of the tongue is touching the upper teeth.
2. Inhale through the side of the lip from the folded tongue.
3. Repeat about 5-10 rounds.
The bene?ts are same as Sitali.
Sadanta Pranayama (Cooling Breathing)
Danta means teeth. It is cooling pranayama. This is a variation of Sitali and Sitakari Pranayama, as some people may ?nd it difficult to either fold or roll the tongue.
1. Touch the upper palate of the mouth with the tongue. 2. Open the mouth but upper and lower teeth touch. 3. Inhale through the teeth; exhale through the nostril. 4. Repeat about 5-10 rounds.
The bene?ts are same as the previous one. One can also perform all the three cooling pranayama separately if capable.
Sukha Pranayama (Easy Breathing on Bolster)
1. Lie down on a bolster which is placed under the lumber spine for complete resting of the spine, stretching the legs straight.
2. Slightly bend the elbows, palms facing upward. The chest is open and the lungs expanded. Alternatively, place the palms on the chest, observing expansion of the lungs.
3. Keep the breath slow and normal, with an inhalation and exhalation ratio of 1:2. In other words, exhale twice as long as inhale.
4. Perform this for about 5 -10 minutes
This exercises the heart and regulates the breath, maintaining a rhythmic heart rate. The bolster creates the same effect as a backbend. As the body is resting, Pranayama can be done longer.