A variation of Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose practiced with a chair

5 Yoga Poses for Your Heart

Beverly Davis-Baird MA, C-IAYT
Updated: 
February 06, 2022

Yoga is known for improving flexibility and balance. But did you know that a well-rounded practice of yoga poses for your heart is an effective tool for maintaining cardiovascular health? Active yoga poses stimulate the heart, increasing both heart rate and blood circulation. Just as important are restorative poses, which promote relaxation and stress relief. All together, practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels, as well as heart rate, which can all add up to a lower risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

How to Practice Yoga Poses for Your Heart

Here is a sequence of five yoga poses for your heart. The sequence combines active and restorative poses to help you maintain a happy, healthy heart:
 
Dynamic Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose or Tadasana with Arms OverheadMoving in and out of this pose warms up the body and increases your heart rate. Be sure to focus on maintaining steady breathing as you move, and throughout this sequence of yoga poses for your heart.

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and about hip distance apart. Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. 

  2. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on both feet. 

  3. Roll your shoulders back and down, allowing your arms to hang by your sides. Extend the crown of your head toward the ceiling.

  4. On an inhalation, lift your arms forward and up, bringing the upper arms by your ears. Extend through your fingertips and side body. 

  5. Then slowly exhale the arms back down by your sides. 

  6. For an added challenge, try also lifting your heels as your arms rise. Repeat 3 to 6 times before staying with arms and possibly heels lifted for 3 to 5 breaths. Lower your arms and heels and notice how you feel. 

Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior ll Pose or Virabhadrasana ll Pose which supports good breathing practices.Warrior II Pose is an energizing yoga pose for your heart that opens the chest and lungs, permitting deeper breathing. It also improves circulation while helping to develop balance and stability.

  1. Step your feet 3 to 4 feet wide. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly. 

  2. On an inhalation, bend your right knee and lift your arms to shoulder height, palms facing down. Check that your right knee tracks toward the second toe of your right foot and stacks over the ankle. (If your knee goes past your ankle, lengthen your stance.) 

  3. As you exhale, straighten your right knee and lower your arms back to your sides. Move in and out of the pose 3 to 6 times, coordinating the movement with your breath.

  4. On the last repetition, stay in the pose, lengthening upward through the crown of your head and reaching dynamically through each arm. Feel the expansiveness and openness of the heart and chest. 

  5. After 3 to 5 breaths, exhale the arms to your sides, straightening your right knee and turning your feet forward. Pause here to notice any sensations. 

  6. Repeat on your other side. 

 

Cat Pose (Cakravakasana)

Cakravakasana Pose depicted here is great for spinal health and connecting breath to movement.Cakravakasana Pose depicted here is great for spinal health and connecting breath to movement.

 

 

 

Often recommended for back pain, Cakravakasana brings mobility to the upper back and spine, opening the area behind the heart. 

  1. Come to Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) on your mat, placing your hips directly above your knees and your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Your knees should be about 4 inches apart, and your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders.

  2. On an inhalation, draw the shoulder blades together, lengthening the spine. Keep the belly firm and the neck long, directing your gaze toward the front of your mat. 

  3. As you exhale, engage your abs as you bring your forehead and elbows to the floor and hips toward your heels. Observe the gentle lengthening of your entire spine, especially behind the heart. 

  4. Use your inhalation to return back to Tabletop Pose. 

  5. Repeat 4 to 5 more times. 

  6. Then rest your head on the floor, a block or folded arms. Breathe into the space between the shoulder blades and behind the heart for 4 to 5 breaths. 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) Variations

Seated Cobra Pose or Seated Bhujangasana. Known for opening the heart and chest area and strengthening the back

Usually done on lying on the belly, Cobra Pose is a gentle backbend that expands the heart area while strengthening the mid-and upper back. To make this pose more accessible, here are two versions: seated and at a wall.

  1. For seated Cobra Pose, sit on a folded blanket with your palms resting on your knees and the spine long. 

  2. Keeping the neck long, on an inhalation, visualize the breath lengthening the front of the torso, gently lifting the sternum. Imagine the ribs floating up from the waist as the shoulder blades move toward the center of the back, gently arching back. 

  3. As you exhale firm the belly to return to center. 

  4. Repeat 2 to 3 times. Then stay with your heart lifted for 3 to 5 breaths, noticing the expansion of the heart center with each inhalation. 

  5. Exhale to a neutral position, taking time to observe any sensations.

Cobra Variation-Standing Cobra

Seated Cobra Pose or Seated Bhujangasana. Known for opening the heart and chest area and strengthening the back.

  1. For standing Cobra Pose, stand in Mountain Pose with your feet about 3 to 6 inches away from a wall or the back of a door. 

  2. Place your palms on the wall at chest height, hugging the elbows into the sides of your waist. 

  3. On an inhalation, lengthen the front of the body, lifting the sternum. Feel your shoulder blades draw toward the center of your back as you gently lift your gaze, arching your back. 

  4. Exhale back to neutral. 

  5. Move in and out of the pose 2 to 3 times. Then stay with your heart lifted for 3 to 5 breaths before returning to Mountain Pose. Allow your arms to rest by your sides and notice the sensations around the heart.

 

 

Legs Up the Wall—or Chair (Viparita Karani)

How to practice a variation of Legs Up the Wall Pose

This final yoga pose for your heart is an inversion and a restorative pose. If you have unmedicated high blood pressure, stay briefly in the pose. Otherwise, feel free to stay for as long as 15 minutes.

  1. Lie on your back with your buttocks near the edge of a chair, bench, or couch. 

  2. Bring both legs to rest on the chair, making sure your calves and ankles are supported. Place a folded blanket under your pelvis and another across your abdomen for added comfort and grounding. 

  3. Allow your arms to rest at your sides and slightly away from your torso. 

  4. Close your eyes or place an eye pillow or small cloth over them. 

  5. Rest here for 5 minutes, focusing on your breath. Visualize your heart as strong, steady, relaxed, and rested.

  6. To come out of the pose, walk your heels to the edge of the chair and slowly roll to one side. 

  7. Rest on your side for 3 to 5 breaths before rolling your chest toward the floor and using your arms to return to a seated position. 

 

Donna Brooks, Yoga Therapist, YogaUOnline presenter, Yoga for grief


Reprinted with permission from WisdomTreeYoga.com.

Beverly Davis-Baird, Wisdom Tree Yoga, Yoga Therapist and 6 reasons to practice yoga for arthritis

Beverly Davis-Baird, MA, C-IAYT is a New Jersey-based yoga therapist, writer, and educator. She specializes in making yoga accessible for adults 50+, offering classes and workshops for back care, arthritis, bone health, balance, posture, and healthy aging. An educator at heart with over 20 years of experience as a public school teacher, Beverly brings her knowledge of individual learning styles to her classes, providing instruction that is clear, concise, inclusive, and compassionate. Bringing over 30 years of experience and training, she considers herself a lifelong learner and believes that the practice of yoga should bring spaciousness and release from tension, not create it. As such, she strives to make yoga accessible to people of differing abilities, believing the real benefits of yoga come from what is taken with you outside of class and into your life. To read her blog or learn more about her teaching schedule and latest offerings, please visit www.wisdomtreeyoga.com.