Stepping onto the mat for a little yoga is one of the best things you can do for your heart. The latest research finds yoga enhances cardiovascular health in a number of ways, from calming the nervous system and reducing disease-causing inflammation to taming hypertension and boosting beneficial HDL cholesterol. It also improves circulation and lung function, and may even reduce heart disease risk as effectively as brisk walking and cycling. That’s good news for yogis of all levels, including men, who now account for nearly one in five people doing yoga. These relaxing yoga poses are particularly good for heart health.
Breathing deeply while you do these gentle poses will help your heart even more. A recent study found that yogic 2:1 breathing—with an exhalation twice as long as the inhalation—is an effective tool to help manage hypertension. Breathing this way calms your nervous system and lowers your heart and respiratory rate to help reduce blood pressure. Give it a try as you hold each asana: Inhale through your nose to a count of two and exhale through your nose to a count of four. Focusing on your breath also helps you relax into each pose and deepen its benefits.