(BPT) – Most people who picture hearts in February think: Valentine’s Day. But if you ask a cardiologist, you may get a different answer. February is National American Heart Health Month.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson announced February 1964 as the first American Heart Month, he had a singular mission: unite Americans to fight the scourge of heart disease. He died, nine years later, of a heart attack.
We’ve made a lot of progress since then. But not enough.
According to the American College of Cardiology, one of every four deaths in the United States every year is due to cardiovascular disease and many of these are preventable.
Feel that? Your heart going pitter patter? That’s stress. A lot of us cope with stress in ways that might not be beneficial to our ticker: we drink, we escape into TV shows, we snack.
We all know yoga is good for us. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, among other benefits. But did you know that it can also cultivate physical and emotional changes that promote heart health?
According to a recent issue of the Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Letter, yoga can help prevent or improve a host of health conditions linked to heart health, including insomnia, depression and obesity. Yoga also encourages slow, deep breathing, which helps lower blood pressure. This can train your nervous system over time to be less reactive to stress.
Kundalini Yoga, a yoga practice centered on meditation and breathing practices, offers these benefits while also being accessible and gentle enough for almost everyone.
No matter who you are, it’s never too early (or too late) to start.
3HO, an organization that promotes Kundalini Yoga and meditation worldwide, offers simple sets of practices for beginners, including this one:
Posture: Sit up straight in a comfortable position.
Hands: Bring your palms together at the center of your chest. Touch your pinkie finger and thumb of one hand to the pinkie finger and thumb of the other hand. Straighten and spread open your other fingers. The effect is intended to look like a lotus in bloom.
Eyes: Focus your eyes on the tip of your nose.
Mantra: Chant this mantra: Humee Hum Brahm Hum. (You may feel silly. That’s OK. No one’s watching. Chanting a mantra is just breathing, but with training wheels.)
Time: Continue for a few minutes, gradually working your way up to 31 minutes. Don’t judge yourself. Just do what you can.
When you’re done, suspend the breath, and exhale. Repeat 2 more times. Sit absolutely still for one minute. Sense everything. Then move your shoulders and arms and relax.
Interested in more information on Kundalini Yoga and other kriyas? Visit 3HO.org.
KRI is a non-profit organization that holds the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and provides accessible and relevant resources to teachers and students of Kundalini Yoga.