What Yoga Can Do for Your Heart
You might have heard about guided visualization or progressive relaxation to calm your nerves. A yoga practice brings in both of these approaches, through an array of relaxing movements (asanas) and breath work (pranayamas) to help you focus your mind and learn to let go of your muscle tension.
After a few weeks of practicing, these techniques will become much more natural, and you’ll be able to call upon them in any stressful situation.
How to Choose the Right Yoga Practice
When you live with AFib, the key to a healthy exercise routine is respecting your limits. Hot yoga, power yoga, and any ultra-fast vinyasa is probably a bad idea. Instead of pushing your flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, you’ll want to explore your physical and mental control — and that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Still and relaxing poses might not challenge every muscle group, but they can be some of the most difficult for the mind. Keeping good form in downward dog, cat/cow, and even savasana (corpse pose) will demand focus and restraint, which can take some time to master, but will help you slow your heart rather than speed it up.
Yogic breathing is always a good place to begin. Here are a few effective methods to help your AFib:
You’ll know if you’re doing this breath right when you hear your inhale and exhale. First, you gently contract the muscles at the back of your throat to narrow your airway a bit and breathe in slowly, then exhale to the same count while you feel your breath push against your throat, and repeat.
It can feel funny at first, but you’ll soon find it’s calming and invigorating at the same time.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Using the thumb and finger of one hand, you’ll block one nostril at a time while you breathe into the other nostril.
First, cover your right nostril with your right thumb, then breathe in deeply through your left nostril. Exhale out of your right nostril as you block your left nostril with your ring finger.
Now, keeping your finger where it is, breathe in through your right nostril, remove your finger, then breathe out of your left nostril. Repeat this process several times.
In this exercise, you fill up your lungs bit by bit. First, you inhale a third of your lung capacity, then hold your breath for a moment. Then inhale another third, holding for a couple of seconds before inhaling the last third.
Hold your breath at the top of your inhale, then start to exhale the same way: one third, then hold, then another third, then hold, and then the last third. The object is to massage your torso with your structured breath.
When you’re ready to move into physical yoga postures, be sure to start slowly, and try to work with a trained instructor or guide for the first few sessions to make sure you’re on the right track. Form is important, but so is patience, especially when you have AFib.
Don’t expect too much of yourself, and try to enjoy your practice as much as possible. If you stick with it, you’ll begin to see results before you know it.