The cardiovascular system, also called the circulatory system, is composed primarily of the heart and its blood vessels – arteries and veins.
The arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated (purified, oxygen-rich blood) and nutrients to the various organs, tissues and cells in the body.
Veins typically carry back deoxygenated blood, toxins and other waste products away from organs and tissues and back to the heart and lungs to be purified and circulated back to the body.
The Cardiovascular System is powered by the most consistent and hard-working organ in the entire body – the heart, which pumps from roughly about 3 to 4 weeks after conception only to stop beating to signal the end of the individual’s life.
The human heart is made up of 4 chambers – 2 atria (or auricles) & 2 ventricles and roughly pumps about 5 litres of blood throughout the adult body in a day.
Poor lifestyle choices (diet, sedentary living) and essential stress, all put an added load on the cardiovascular system.
Stress (physical as well as psychological) adds to the sympathetic nervous stimulation of the heart and blood vessels, leading to elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure (hypertension).
Exercise has been shown to reduce the stress response in individuals and is the number one recommendation for individuals with blood pressure fluctuation and other cardiovascular diseases.
Yoga, in particular, is a very highly recommended practice to induce parasympathetic calming of an agitated cardiovascular system.
Yogic practices help to bring a balance to the systemic circulatory processes as well as induce a stress-relieving and calming response leaving practitioners more composed immediately after practice.
Research at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam & Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that yoga is linked to the reduced risk factors for heart disease, including lower Body Mass Index (BMI), lower Blood Pressure (BP) and reduced heart rate.
A 2013 study by the University of California, San Diego, indicated that restorative yoga may not only help with weight loss, but also lower cortisol levels – a key stress hormone.
Asanas: Surya Namaskar, Chest opening poses – Eka pada rajkapota, Natarajasana, Downward Facing Dog
To lower blood pressure: Viparita Karani, Shavasana
Pranayama: Kapalabhati, Bhastrika, Anulom Vilom, Bramari pranayama
Note: Always consult your primary healthcare provider before starting a fitness practice, especially if you have high blood pressure. In case of high blood pressure, avoid getting your head lower than the heart level / inversions – increasing the blood flow to the head. Practice just one or two gentle rounds of pranayama in case of blood pressure issues & fluctuation.
Main focus: Optimising blood circulation.