The Hearty Benefits of Yoga

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The ancient Eastern tradition of yoga is now almost as American as blue jeans, hot dogs and apple pie.

More than 20 million people in the United States practice yoga today, a dramatic increase since 2001 when just 4 million were doing yoga, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Proponents of the mind-body technique claim it calms your mind and keeps you well. More evidence is now supporting the latter than ever before. A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Cardiology last year suggests yoga reduces 12 risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, heart rate, lipid levels, abdominal obesity and inflammatory markers.

Yoga can also be great for improving flexibility, strength, balance and posture.

“Anything that exercises your muscles is good for your heart, but studies suggest that yoga can go beyond that by helping to ease stress and may even alleviate some symptoms of depression,” says Elizabeth Kaback, M.D., a cardiologist and member of the Division of Cardiology at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. “Yoga helps turn on your autonomic nervous system, which will provide you with increased physical, mental and emotional well-being,” she added.

The cardiovascular benefits of yoga

The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit word indicating a joining of the body and mind. For those at risk of developing heart disease, this union may help relieve the everyday stresses that can — over time — contribute to heart disease. The deep breaths that are the foundation of yoga could help to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for producing stress hormones.

“The stress reduction from yoga can help to turn off our fight-or-flight impulse, which in turn further reduces stress,” says Dr. Kaback, who is based at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. “Additionally, gently exercising helps strengthen your muscles and helps them become more resistant to insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar levels.”

Embracing your inner yogi

If you are a yoga newbie, remember to start slow and find the type of yoga that works best for you. Find a beginner class that will help you will build your strength, balance and flexibility slowly.

Make sure you have the right gear before you begin. Stretchy, comfortable clothes are important, and a yoga mat will keep your feet from slipping while you exercise. Many modified beginner poses also require a foam block or cotton strap.

Yoga on the USS Midway June 20

Yoga practitioners of all levels are invited to a free, hour-long yoga class Saturday, June 20, on the flight deck of the USS Midway, 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego.

More than 400 participated in the inaugural event last year and more are expected this Saturday. Scripps and the Downtown San Diego Partnership are hosting the event as part of Scripps’ sponsorship of Healthy Living in the City, a wellness program designed to highlight healthy lifestyle options in downtown.

Participants can register on site at the USS Midway, beginning at 7 a.m. or in advance here: Yoga on the USS Midway

For more information about Scripps Health, visit or call 858-240-5075.

Categories: Health