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Yoga is a system of physical and mental conditioning that originated in India thousands of years ago. Most Westerners are familiar with the physical exercises of yoga, called asanas, which improve flexibility and strength; the other two main practices of yoga, breathing and meditation, are also important contributors to health and well being. Among the many health benefits that yoga offers is the lowering of resting heart rate.
Your Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats, or contracts, per minute, measured when you are completely at rest. Your resting heart rate indicates your basic fitness level; the fewer times your heart has to beat in a period of time, the healthier it is. A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, according to the Mayo Clinic. A trained athlete might have a resting heart rate closer to 40. To find your resting heart rate, check your pulse: Place two fingers on the side of your neck at the carotid artery or on the inside of your wrist, count the number of beats in 10 seconds, and multiply by 6.
Effects of Yoga
The traditional techniques of yoga can reduce stress and help you relax, which helps to lower your resting heart rate. Yoga postures prescribe steady, controlled breathing patterns which help to relax your muscles, including your heart. Yoga breathing exercises focus your mind and teach you how to control your respiration rate. Meditation teaches you how to deeply relax both mind and body to improve concentration and awareness. A study published in 2011 in the вЂњInternational Journal of Biological and Medical ResearchвЂќ found a significant reduction in resting heart rate after six months of yoga practice in 50 subjects. Blood pressure and weight were also significantly reduced.
Physicians Prescribe Yoga
Because of its reputation for lowering stress levels, yoga is often prescribed by physicians for their heart and cancer patients, according to Heart Zones, a heart rate monitoring systems company. The Mayo Clinic reports that yoga can also have a positive effect on such conditions as depression, chronic pain and insomnia.
How to Start Practicing Yoga
Always check with your physician before starting any new exercise program. Find a yoga class that suits your abilities and desires; avoid classes that require strenuous poses for beginners, and ask the teacher about her experience and training, especially if you are taking the class to get help for particular health concerns. A competent teacher can tailor the curriculum for individual needs.