A friend recently asked me if my heart felt “open” and “in that moment”. As I journeyed within, my body’s natural inclination was to take a deep full breath inwards. As my lungs expanded my heart felt free and from this “space” I was able to ask myself whether my heart was open: Am I approaching each day with a fresh perspective, with open arms and acceptance for new love discovery? Am I capable of sharing openly and truthfully my deepest fears and feelings with friends and family?
Getting in touch with your heart and asking yourself “where you are at” helps you to stay in touch with personal truths and passions and reminds you to live from love and not from fear. Getting in touch with your heart also allows you the time for a physical heart “check-up”. Taking the time to stop and listen to your heart, observing any irregularities in your pulse, any signs of stress, tightness in your chest or shortness in the rhythm of your breathing, could help prevent the onset of heart disease and ultimately save your life.
The Australian Heart Foundation reminds us that cardiovascular disease is the cause of more than 50,000 deaths a year; that’s 40 per cent of all deaths in Australia. While medical research is linking some cardiovascular disease to genetic defects (The Weekend Australian 8-9Februaray 2003), yoga practitioners are experiencing the immediate relaxation and restorative effects of yoga on their heart through simple, deep, full breathing yoga exercises and relaxing yoga postures.
An open heart and a healthy heart go hand in hand. Some of the most effective ways we maintain a healthy heart and prevent the onset of heart disease include regular exercise and breathing fully and correctly. As we breathe deeply, we become more inspired -- a literal meaning of “inspire” is “to breathe in”. While natural therapists have been recommending clients take up yoga and other mind/body relaxation techniques for decades, medical doctors, too, are now commonly referring patients to relaxation yoga classes, “prescribing” yoga breathing, meditation exercises and restorative postures.
Lifestyle factors greatly influence the state of your heart. Too much stress, mental anxiety, lack of sleep, short, shallow breathing, poor diet and insufficient vitamin and mineral levels -- especially calcium (leached out of the body with caffeine intake) -- are all common triggers for heart stress. Given this, it makes healthy sense to regularly relax and open the heart.
Many yoga relaxation postures, such as simply lying over a bolster, open the chest cavity, allowing the respiratory muscles, including the heart and lungs, to relax. This yoga exercise will automatically promote unrestricted circulation and breathing. Resting the heart slows the heart rate and assists with deep, full breathing. Narrowing and blockages of arteries often lead to angina and heart attacks. Many yoga postures assist the heart's vessels to remain open and unblocked, releasing tightness in the arteries and cardiac muscles and preventing the onset of cardiovascular diseases.
One of the smartest health insurance plans to invest in is simply relaxation yoga, and it’s not difficult to do. The yoga postures are designed to require little or no effort and be as comfortable as possible to ensure deep relaxation. The focus of this yoga is on slowing the breathing and developing deep, full “in” and “out” breaths through the nostrils. As we consciously inhale, we train our lungs to inflate slowly and fully, taking in maximum air. As we exhale, we allow the air to move out of the lungs slowly without strain or force, training the lungs to empty completely. This yoga practice alone greatly stretches our lung capacity and strengthens all our breathing muscles.