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Aqua Yoga and Heart Disease

Stress really can be a killer, and heart disease is still the number one leading cause for deaths in the USA with stroke at number 5. It is thought to claim more lives than all forms of cancer put together, and so how can we try and balance our lives so this does not become an issue for us individually?

Hypertension and high blood pressure are on the rise, and 30-46 % of people in the USA are affected each year.

Because yoga is really more about lifestyle choices than exercise per say, it is an excellent way for people to help reduce their health risks. Amazingly more than 60% of American adults do not exercise regularly and 25% are not at all motivated to move at all.

Making conscious changes with aqua yoga is now more accessible than ever, as more people are starting to think and practice away from the traditional yoga mat. Research indicates a reduced heart rate in the water compared to the same intensity of exercise on land.

There are also added advantages of practicing in the water.

* Immersion in water assists the heart in venous return and pulmonary function. Something that the gravitational field in a land based class cannot offer, even before any asanas are practiced. As water reduces the effects of gravity on the body, blood flows back up to the heart with less effort resulting in a lower resting heart rate.

The hydrostatic pressure causes a smaller venous load to the heart than equivalent exercises on land and promotes deeper breathing. Being in the water helps to relax high tone in muscles.

Asana practice at chest height is recommended for reduced impact and ability to bring mindful actions to the movements.

The land based yoga community already knows that a mindful practice can help with weight loss, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, but aqua yoga therapy is a relatively new modality for aquatic therapy and rehabilitation teachers. This is where I am focusing most of my attention these days as I am in the midst of writing level 2 teacher training. (avail 2017)

Yoga overall affects the body, mind and nervous system in an efficacious way.

For heart disease, cooler water rather than a therapeutic 92% is suggested with low intensity and long duration. Yoga can help to strengthen larger muscles but care should be taken with extending both arms overhead until the student gains awareness of its impact.

Water walking using noodles or a walker is a great way to start a yoga practice in the pool and get into a steady breathing pattern. Shoes are recommended which can help with a controlled entry and exit of the pool as well as offer greater support.

Try not to tightly grip props or the the side of the pool, and of course,relax the jaw and release the tongue.

Keep movements slow,resembling kelp to soothe and create a platform for improved breath control.

Stroke is the leading preventable cause of disability.

Stepping into the pool can still be a wonderful place to gain greater strength and stability.

Balance improves.

More calories are burned in the water VS land and sternal discomfort is reduced after open heart surgery when the doctor gives the OK, about 3 months after surgery.

People recovering from heart issues will generally gain more contentment by looking at open water and this may even reduce the need for pain medication.

Stroke is the leading preventable cause of disability.

Consider taking to the water.

Balance and trunk stability improves in the water and this is transferred as the person functions on land.

Relaxed muscles

Improve balance, coordination

Cultivate self-awareness

Strengthen weak muscles

Try some symmetrical movements.

Care enter/exit water

Slow movement

Visualization for limb that may not corporate. Extend limbs- vyana vayu.

Buoyancy or weighted as appropriate (heavier on affected side) or light buoyancy on non-affected side. Affected side works harder at grounding.

Clear, precise instructions.

Encourage student to develop their own positive affirmation.

Savasana, relaxation using noodles for support can be a delicious end to a meaningful Aqua Yoga session.

We never know how our life and challenges will unfold, but being unable to continue our yoga practice need not be an additional stress factor,

Pain, injury and diseases of the heart need to be healed on so many levels and a hug of the water is not a bad place to start.

In the Kriya Dharma,


for questions contact

references: American Heart Association, Harvard Health Publications,

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