Your heart is the pump that keeps your body running. When your heart begins to lose efficiency or fails, your life is in immediate jeopardy. The best course of action is to prevent heart disease by eating a healthy, low-fat diet and by exercising regularly, but even perfectly healthy individuals are sometimes struck by cardiovascular disease. Maybe it's a matter of genetics. Sometimes the reason is a mystery. The treatment needn't be mysterious, however. In addition to your regular medical care, remember the following:
> Yoga can help you make the lifestyle changes you need for a better, happier heart. Yoga will decrease stress and increase circulation.
> The fastest way to reduce stress is to alter the breath. Deepen it. Inverted postures (see Chapter 15, "Come on, Body, Let's Do the Twist") take pressure off the heart because it doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood to the extremities. More oxygen is pushed through the wall of the lungs, purifying the blood—but first get your doctor's permission to practice inversions.
> Yoga asanas in general stretch the major blood vessels, keeping them open and elastic.
Wise Yogi Tells Us
Even if you are unable to do yoga because of illness, injury, or chronic pain, visualizing yourself going through the postures has been known to improve prana, the life force. First visualize the pose, then visualize flowing into the pose, becoming one with the pose, flowing out of the pose, and releasing. Like Pavlov's dog, ultimately we can think "fish pose," and our body will receive all the benefits. We are more than our bodies and must learn to work with whatever body we are given.
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