Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yoga for Cardio Wellness and Power

Yoga for Cardio Wellness, and Power: Medical Yoga
Maureen Mason MSPT, WCS, CCI, PYT-C
October 2015                                                       

Part 3 of 9
Celebrate PT month!

Yoga can power up muscles, and key yoga asanas are illustrated here. Also, yoga appears to have cardiovascular benefits similar to those seen in the standard advised aerobic fitness training protocols. The latest research identifies reductions in blood pressure and improved lipid profiles in a groups practicing yoga for 12 weeks or more. This is great news for the 80% of the population that do not perform aerobic training regularly.

    According to research from the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology “Compared with individuals who did not participate in any physical activity, those who practiced asana-based yoga reduced their LDL-cholesterol levels by 12.1 mg/dL and systolic blood pressure by 5.2 mm Hg and increased their HDL-cholesterol levels by 3.2 mg/dL. In addition, the yoga practitioners also saw significant reductions in body-mass index, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart rate. Overall, the yogis lost 2.35 kg compared with non -exercisers…. Yoga, it appears, might provide a benefit in terms of improving cardiovascular risk profiles similar to that of physical activities like cycling or brisk walking, say researchers".
Medical Yoga, as prescribed individually in the Professional Yoga Therapy method, considers safety, stability, and sequencing of yoga poses to build strength. No wobbling or painful twisting or nerve irritating maneuvers should occur when performing yoga for health benefits. Props such as blankets, blocks, and bolsters are used for optimizing alignment and comfort.
Here are a few key poses, I am showing "modified" versions per my own flexibility, strength, and safety; asanas can help you develop power without hitting the gym for 90 squats and lunges with machines or free weights. These are performed with breath control and engaging spinal neutral-avoiding pivoting or arching excessively. 

Yoga Asanas for strength and power:

 Chair  Pose
I love this, as it provides a "hip hinge" while engaging abdominals, low back, pelvic, and leg muscles in a functional pattern that carries over to spine protection during activities of daily living. It is a mini squat with a slight forward lean. Add arms reaching up for an upper/lower body hold. My shoulders are tight on reaching up and I "substitute" by arching my mid back too much, so I warm up with just legs and trunk. 

This is great for post partum moms lifting babies, as it allows the strong hip to be the hinge vs the spinal segments. 

Boat Pose
The boat is often performed with legs out straight-but-anyone reading this have tight hamstrings? This also requires a flexible lower spine and tailbone, and breathing while holding lower abdominals in. You can build up to it by practicing pilates style roll backs.


I am not a perfect straight line with this, but am better at lowering my hips without over arching my back and sagging. A key control tip here is to dial in scapula-thoracic stabilization with a shoulder lock, or in lay terms, turn on a slight shoulder blade pinch vs hunching shoulders into a rounded position. How long can you hold this? A great goal is to build up to 60 seconds.

Side plank
The truth is that it has taken me months to develop the ability to hold the side plank without my hip cramping and my shoulder giving out.
 But you may notice my back appears to be arching-big deal, but it could become a pivot and compression point, and strain.So I am building on this, with a dose of yoga 3 to 4 x a week, 30 min sessions mostly. 
 In order to have strong hips for walking, and for runners, the side plank should be held for 30 sec. for women, and 60 sec for men.

What are your favorite Asanas? And do you have a question regarding yoga safety and your joints or spine? Log in and let us know!

For PT month we have private Physical  Therapist training sessions available, call for details.

Next up: Warrior series. Yoga for energizing.


Chu P, Gotink RA, Yeh GY, Goldie SJ, Hunink MG. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Prevent Cardiol 2014; DOI:10.1177/2047487314562741. Abstract
 Namaste, Yogis: Review Suggests Yoga Improves CVD Risk

James A. Raub. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 2002, 8(6): 797-812. Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review doi:10.1089/10755530260511810. Volume: 8 Issue 6: July 5, 2004

Medical Therapeutic Yoga: