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Women's Health

Boost your heart

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Want to keep your heart healthy, but not a fan of traditional cardio? According to new research, practising yoga might be the answer

If you want to get your heart into good nick, but the thought of running or cycling is enough to have you hiding in bed all day, then new research from Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam is something youíll want to peek over the duvet for.

Scientists have found that regularly performing yoga both reduces stress levels and increases fitness enough to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In fact, yoga is just as capable of doing
this as more strenuous exercise.

Great news! Particularly when you consider that, according to the NHS, heart disease affects some 2.7 million Brits and one in eight women die from the illness.

The research also found that yoga may be even more beneficial for those already suffering from heart disease. After all, with its slow pace, yoga is far more accessible than more strenuous forms of cardio exercise, especially for those who suffer from joint issues like arthritis, too.

So, next time you roll out that mat and start your sun salutations, remember that itís not just a chance to clear the mind and loosen the muscles ñ youíll
be strengthening the most important muscle in your body of all: the heart.

Try this suitable-for-all yoga workout devised by Cheryl MacDonald, founder and principal yoga teacher at YogaBellies (yogabellies.co.uk). The eight-move sequence is sure to get your heart rate up and give you that all-important cardio workout.

Pigeon Pose

Start with one leg extended behind you, and the other bent with your thigh and lower leg on the floor.

Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your hip.

Warrior II

Step forward so that your feet are wider than hip-width apart, pointing the toes of your front foot forwards and the toes of your back foot away
from you. Both feet should be flat on the floor.

Bend your front knee, keeping your back leg straight, and bring your weight forward.

Stretch out through your fingertips in opposite directions. Your focal point should be forwards, looking over your front hand.

Bow Pose

Lie on your belly with your hands by your sides, palms facing up.

Exhale, bend your knees and bring your feet up toward your bottom. Reach back and take hold of your ankles. Your knees should only be hip-distance apart, if possible.

Inhale, lifting your heels away from your buttocks. Lift your thighs up from the floor. Your head and chest will follow and lift up off the floor.

Try to keep your back muscles soft, rather than straining. Continue to lift, press your shoulder blades together and open your chest. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward while breathing into your back.

Wheel

Lie on your back and bend your knees so that the soles of your feet remain flat on the floor. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with your heels close to your bottom.

Raise your hands, bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor beside your head.

Gradually push with your legs and arms and lift your hips to raise your body off the ground. Then try to straighten your arms as fully as possible.

Lift your hips and extend your back as much as possible.

Dancer’s Pose 

Keeping one foot planted on the floor with your leg extended, hinge at your hips to lower your upper body toward the floor. Your other leg will lift up behind you.

Bend your back leg and take hold of your foot with the hand of the same side.

Reach your opposite arm out in front of you and look forward over your hand.

Camel’s Pose

Start kneeling on the floor, with your torso extended and knees hip-width apart.

Reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels, then push your hips forward so that they are directly over your knees. Allow your head to come back, opening your throat and chest to the ceiling as you do so.

If it’s too much of a stretch to reach all the way back to your feet, just take your hands to your hips. Look up and bend gently backwards, as far as is comfortable.

Take your shoulders back and down, and open your chest as much as is possible as you bend backward gently from your hips.

How to do it

Hold each posture for 5 breaths before moving into the next, making sure you’ve completed it on both sides if necessary. You can repeat the entire sequence up to 10 times depending on your fitness level.

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