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Friday, June 14, 2013

how yoga can calm your heart

During our Yoga Your Back session a few weeks back, chiropractor Jean-Baptiste Daumont and I conducted a fascinating experiment that put claims about yoga, inner balance, and stress reduction to the test. As we were preparing the session together, we started playing around with JB's oximeters (heart rate and oxygen monitors). Just for fun, I decided to see what would happen to my own heart rate if I went upside-down into a headstand (sirsasana)... lo and behold, after 10 seconds in an inverted posture, my heart rate dropped 10 bpm! We tried again with a simpler inversion, an easy forward bend (uttanasana)... same effect!

forward bends and inversions, like uttanasana, lower your heart rate like magic.

We decided to test the participants of the session to see if and how a short, simple yoga session affected their heart reate. The results were surprising: not only did all of the participants with resting heart rates on the high end at the beginning of the session have lower heart rates after the session, one participant with a very low heart rate saw her heart rate rise to a "normal" level after the session! Even more interesting: those with a regular yoga practice saw little to no change in their heart rate before and after. The lesson: yoga gives you what your particular body needs - a boost or a break. And the effect is lasting: a regular yoga practice can increase the flexibility of your nervous system and your body's ability to maintain and return quickly to equilibrium after stress.

Fascinated by this effect, I decided to try out FirstBeat, a 48-hour monitoring and analysis of my heart rate to better understand this mind-body phenomenon on a personal level.

me and my FirstBeat heart monitor
I am waiting on the analysis... will share the results when I get them!