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Which Asanas to Avoid if Suffering from Heart Disease

By Dr. Sudhansu Sekhar Parida in Cardiac Sciences

Aug 11 , 2016 | 8 min read

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Yoga is the solution to all heart problems. We all practice a few asanas that can reduce the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, Yoga is not the cure for all heart diseases and has its own limitations.

Yoga has been around for many millennia; and its popularity has spread across the world, with millions of people practising it, and reaping the many rewards it brings to both mind and body. The benefits of yoga are far too many, and this has rightly encouraged many of us to make it a part of our lives. Doing yoga can help improve mental health, reduce inflammation and anxiety, boost immunity, enhance balance, reduce inches, and even help manage health conditions to some extent.

Despite its plethora of benefits, yoga may not be everyone’s cup of tea, at least not all yogic exercise anyway. There are specific asanas (yogic poses) that should be avoided if you have heart disease, as they may aggravate the situation. People with heart disease should always seek the advice of their doctors on which exercises they should and shouldn't do.

Below are a few questions often asked from an Interventional Cardiologist on which asanas to avoid:

If I Have Been Diagnosed With Heart Disease. Which Are The Yoga Poses To Avoid?

You should avoid poses that make your heart work rigorously. Try to avoid inverted poses as the heart pumps blood against gravity to supply it to your legs and hands, thereby exerting more pressure.

Here are some asanas that patients with heart diseases should avoid:

  1. Chakrasana (Wheel pose)

    Chakrasana involves a person bending backwards in a semi-circular pose. Chakrasana is also known as the wheel pose because it resembles a wheel. The asana improves spinal flexibility, benefits people who have diabetes and respiratory disorders, etc. But in this pose, the heart will be subjected to severe pressure as it will have to pump blood much faster.

  2. Halasana (Plough pose)

    You have to lie down on your back in this pose, lift your legs, bring them over your head and touch the floor with your toes. This asana reduces stress and stretches your shoulders and spine. However, it can impact the heart which will have to work harder for supplying blood to the lower part of the body, as the heart will be circulating blood against gravity. This should be avoided by people with heart conditions.

  3. Karnapirasana (Ear closing pose)

    Karnapidasana is a posture wherein the person’s ears are close to their knees with the legs close to the floor. The asana controls blood pressure, stretches the backbone, treats ear problems, and is beneficial for asthma patients. However, it is not suitable for people with heart disease as it exerts a lot of pressure on the heart.

  4. Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)

    In this asana, you will have to balance your body on your shoulders. The asana strengthens the arms and shoulders, relieves constipation, stimulates the thyroid glands, etc. But this asana is not good for heart patients as the heart has to once again put more effort against gravity to circulate blood.

  5. Sirshasana (Headstand)

    Sirsasana is a headstand pose in which a person needs to balance their body on their head. The asana should be performed under the guidance of an instructor. Though the asana induces relaxation, relieves headaches, helps treat vertigo, etc., it should be avoided by people with heart disease. This is because when the body is in an inverted position, the heart needs to put in more effort to pump blood to the lower part of the body.

  6. Viparita Karani (Simple inverted pose)

    For doing this asana, you’ll have to lie on your back and lift your legs and hips, supporting them with your hands. If you have a heart condition or are at risk of developing a heart attack, please do not do this exercise as it strains your heart by making it circulate more blood to the lower body.

What is Cardio Yoga?

Cardio yoga is a type of yoga that has gained quite a lot of popularity recently. It is a combination of cardiovascular exercises and yoga, it’s fast-paced and offers the benefits of both exercises. Cardio yoga reduces stress, improves sleep, relieves back pain, helps lose weight, and enhances strength.

Benefits of Yoga For Heart Blockage

Barring a few asanas that heart patients should avoid, yoga is on the whole good for the heart. By reducing blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose levels, yoga helps keep your heart healthy and strong. There are also some yoga asanas that prevent problems associated with heart blockage. If you want to do yoga for heart blockage, here are a few asanas mentioned below.

Yoga Asanas For Heart Blockage

Here are some asanas that can help relieve a person of heart blockage: 

  1. Padangusthasana Or The Big Toe Pose

    The Padangusthasana, also called the “big toe pose”, is one of the best yoga poses for keeping your heart hale and hearty. This asana strengthens your thighs and calves while relieving tension and anxiety. The big toe pose is also highly recommended for lowering blood pressure.

  2. Sarvangasana or the Shoulder Stand Pose

    Sarvangasana or the shoulder stand pose is one of the most well-known yoga asanas in the world and is very beneficial for burning fat, reducing blood pressure, and preventing heart problems. Do this pose by lying flat on your back with your hands by the side. Press your arms to the floor and slowly lift your legs and thighs off the floor, and hold for a few seconds.

  3. Utthita Trikonasana or the Extended Triangle Pose

    Utthita Trikonasana is great for expansion of the chest, which helps open out the heart. This pose stretches hamstrings and back muscles while activating the abdominal muscles. Remember, this pose requires some concentration and steady breathing, which can also help you focus better.

  4. Forward Bend Pose

    Sit on the floor and stretch out your legs. Now exhale and bend your body forward so that your forehead comes in contact with your thighs. With your hands, grasp your ankles. Remain in this position for 30 seconds. This asana helps with digestion and controls insulin resistance, reducing the chances of a heart blockage.

  5. Bridge Pose

    Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees so that they point to the sky. Your hands should be comfortably placed on either side of your body. Now gently raise your hips off the ground and tuck your chin in your chest. Clasp your hands behind your raised back. At the same time keep breathing in and out. After a few seconds, start lowering your back. This pose aids in reducing blood pressure and helps keep your heart safe.

  6. Gomukhasana

    Gomukhasana is another effective asana and a sitting asana at that. For this pose, you need to cross your legs. The heels of one of your upper leg should be placed under the buttock of the other leg. Raise the lower leg side arm. Here the forearm will be bent down. With the other arm reach behind the back, with your forearm bent up. Now try to clasp both hands. Besides its many other benefits, Gomukhasana can help lower blood pressure.

Is It Safe To Do Pranayam?

Below are a few generalized precautions before starting pranayama.

  1. If you have any chronic medical condition, seek advice from your doctor.
  2. Always breathe through the nose unless specifically asked to do so.
  3. There should not be any strain during pranayama practice. Lungs are delicate organs; ensure that your breathing is not forced beyond limits. 
  4. Do not make loud sounds during breathing. Keep the breath rhythmic and steady. 
  5. Pranayama should not be practiced immediately after meals. You can do pranayama at least three hours after meals.
  6. Beginners should not hold breaths. When you become comfortable with the basics of pranayama, learn to hold your breath under the guidance of an expert teacher.
  7. If you feel tired or discomfort, stop doing pranayama, and lie down in Shavasana while carrying out normal breathing. Consult your yoga teacher.
  8. Do not practice pranayama if you are too tired, relax for 10-15 minutes in Shavasana before doing pranayama.
  9. If you do yoga asanas and pranayama, practice yoga asanas before pranayama. After practicing asanas, relax in shavasana before doing pranayama. Do not do any strenuous exercise after pranayama. 
  10. Pranayama should not be practiced in a hurry.
  11. Do pranayama outdoors or in a well-ventilated room.
  12. Pranayama should not be practiced when the lungs are congested.

People who are suffering from heart disease, high BP, or hernia should refrain from practicing "Kapalbhati and Bhastrika Pranayama". If you are practicing Kapalabhati, exhalation must be gentle for beginners, do not use excessive force.

"Shitkari Pranayama" is not meant for people having low blood pressure and it should not be practiced during winters. People with a hernia, high blood pressure, and stomach surgery should not practice "Agnisar Pranayama".

Conclusion

Yoga asanas are very effective and can help a person overcome many illnesses and lead a healthy life. However, if you are suffering from medical conditions like heart diseases, you need to avoid some asanas. Before starting yoga, seek the advice of a doctor at a leading hospital like Max Healthcare and do the exercises under the guidance of a trained instructor.

For more information on the heart-related disease or for treatment, you can also visit the heart hospital in Delhi.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the main factors that put you at risk if suffering from heart ailment?

Smoking, an unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. can put you at risk of a heart ailment.

2. How can yoga help?

Yoga lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels.

3. What yoga can I do to prevent, control, and reverse heart diseases?

Extended triangle pose, seated forward bend pose, half spinal twist pose, and cow face pose are a few asanas that are good for the heart.

4. Can Yoga unblock arteries?

Yoga can help unblock arteries by improving blood circulation and reducing blood cholesterol levels.

5. What are the symptoms of heart blockage?

Shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, and shoulder or arm pain, are a few symptoms of heart blockage.

6. Can ECG detect a blocked artery?

An ECG can detect signs of a blocked artery.

7. Can we remove heart blockage with yoga?

Cardiac yoga can help prevent heart blockage.

Check Out: Everything You Should Know About the Types of Heart Attacks