Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States as well as worldwide, regardless of socioeconomic status.  This is a staggering statistic.  As sobering as that sounds, the good news is that your risk of cardiovascular disease can be modified and lowered.  Simple measures, such as eating an appropriate balancing diet, engaging in certain types of exercise, and modifying your lifestyle and environment to reduce stress can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.  My colleagues here at The Healing Sanctuary show people how to do this every day, integrating the miraculous diagnostic capabilities of Western medicine with the wisdom and all natural approach of functional medicine.
     The most exciting news about heart health to me as a teacher of Purna Yoga is the recent publication in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in which researchers, including Dr. Gloria Yeh of Harvard Medical School, demonstrated that yoga can lower the risk of heart disease just as much as conventional exercise.  The people studied varied in age and included those who were healthy as well as those who had risk factors for heart disease.  The participants who practiced yoga lost an average of 5 lbs and decreased their BMI (body-mass index), lowered their blood pressure by 5 points, lowered their levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) by 12 points, and increased their HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) by 3 mg/dL.
     “Yoga is unique because it incorporates physical activity, breathing, and meditation,” says Dr. Yeh.  The physical activity contributes to improved blood pressure and heart rate.  The breathing and meditation decreases the effects of stress, which lead to numerous positive impacts on the neuroendocrine systems as well as metabolic function and related inflammatory responses.  All of these factors can help prevent heart disease, and can help those with existing cardiovascular issues improve.
     The American Heart Association also recognizes yoga as an integral practice in lowering the risk of heart disease.  According to Dr. Yeh, yoga is ideal for people of all fitness levels because it tends to be less strenuous than the types of “heart-healthy” exercises recommended in the past, such as brisk walking or cycling, and it can be easily modified to suit your condition.  Purna Yoga, taught exclusively at The Healing Sanctuary in private sessions, prioritizes safety first and modifications are incorporated into every posture as needed.  An additional benefit of practicing Purna Yoga is the component of Heartfull Meditation, in which meditation focuses on the heart itself.  Research shows that the heart has its own “brain” which communicates extensively with the brains in our heads, affecting the neuroendocrine pathways and influencing the brain’s functions as well as those of the other major organ systems.  Meditating with a focus on the heart and on beautiful feelings contributes to more positive emotions and healthy functioning of these complex pathways.
    Your heart is much more than a pump and is vital to your well being!  Give your heart some love and call to schedule a health and happiness boosting private yoga session with Dr. Allison MacLennan, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon and Purna Yoga teacher certified at the 500 hour level.  Give a gift of true love: gift certificates are now available and make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!
nu-allisonDr. MacLennan is an affiliate Purna Yoga teacher certified at the 500 hour level by the College of Purna Yoga.  She is an Elite Diplomate B.E.S.T. practitioner and an orthopaedic surgeon.