The heartbeat of a person stops or skips a beat for a moment upon hearing the word ‘Heart Disease.’ This disease is so dreadful that mere mention of it may take a person towards death. The word creates fear in ever y one. Stopping of the heartbeat is simply stated the main cause of death.
The Bhagwad Geeta states, “As man changes his cloth es when the old ones get torn, similarly, the soul changes the body when it becomes worn out.” Those who have digested this philosophy do not fear death or heart disease. The word ‘heart disease’ does not stop their heartbeat. But the phi losophy of Bhagwad Geeta has to be digested before this can happen. And an in-depth st udy of Yoga is necessary for the digestion of this philosophy. Many experts from all over the world have come to agree that one of the most outstanding therapeutic as well as preventive measures for the prevention and treatment of heart disease is th e practice of Yoga.
Death comes to a person in form of various diseases . But it seems that the Lord of Death loves heart disease most, as amongst the deaths caused due to various diseases, nearly 60-70% are caused due to heart att acks. It is also true that Yoga is an immensely effective measure in fighting this enemy. Gaining proper and adequate information regarding Yogic Therapyas applied to th e issues of the heart’s healthy functioning is essential and beneficial to everyone .
The human body is composed of billions of cells. Th e life and functioning of all these cells depends upon the oxygen and glucose received by them. This glucose and oxygen is supplied through blood to these cells . The supply of blood to each and every part of the body is carried through the mediu m of the heart and it is the heart that keeps all cells and ultimately the human body alive. The heart operates uninterrupted from before birth to the death of a h uman being. It pumps the blood that carries the energy required by the body for th e body’s proper functioning. The proper operational state of heart maintains life; i ts non-operational state is death. And death can be avoided if treatment is received in ti me.
The function of the heart is to keep the blood flow ing all over the body. The heart is divided into four compartments for this pu rpose. These compartments are composed of heart muscle. Blood enters and leaves the heart due to the contraction and expansion of these muscles. The expansion and c ontraction of muscles takes place on the average of 72 times in one minute. The beats can be counted by feeling the pulse. With this approximation in mind, the hea rt has to contract and expand its muscles for literally more than thirty seven millio n times a year. And for the average human being this functioning is not confined to one single year but extends to approximately seventy to eighty years. The functio ning of the human heart is a gift of the gods.
The functioning of the muscles of the heart or the speed of the heartbeats is controlled by the nervous system. The major factors affecting this control are metabolism and mental tension. The heart rate incre ases with increased physical activity or mental strain; it decreases with physic al rest and mental relief.
The blood purified in the lungs enters the heart an d is then pumped out to flow to all the different parts of the body.The impure b lood returning from the different parts of the body flows into the lungs and from the lungs - fully purified and oxygenated - flows back into the heart. The heart m uscles have to expand and contract to create pressure for the flow of blood. Sufficien t pressure is not created if the 31 muscles are not strong enough to contract to the re quired strength. It is hence necessary to retain the heart’s muscular capacity a nd this can be done when heart muscles receive the proper amount of glucose and ox ygen. The required amount of glucose and oxygen can be received only when blood supply to the heart is in appropriate quantity.
Although the heart is always full of blood, the cel ls of the heart muscles cannot use it for their own purpose. Coronary arter ies supply the blood required by the heart muscle for its functioning. These arterie s further divide into branches and sub-branches. Blood is supplied to every cell of th e heart itself through the smallest blood vessels called capillaries. The amount of blo od supplied to the heart’s cells must be adequate. Insufficient supply of blood to t he heart cells is the beginning of heart disease.
The heart cells cry out if the supply of blood to t hem is inadequate. This may result in chest ache(angina). If the heart cells ar e starved of blood completely, the cells die. An inadequate supply of blood to the hea rt muscle is what causes a heart attack. An inadequate blood supply to the heart cel ls is known as Ischemia or Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD). There are many reason s or causes for such inadequate supply of blood.
When the blood/oxygen requirement of heart cells in creases, the blood vessels supplying the blood expand to increase the supply o f oxygen reaching the heart muscle cells. Cells return to their original resti ng states when the need for blood is fulfilled. Trouble arises at certain times if the c apacity for expansion of the blood vessels is reduced. A person experiences this troub le when the heart has to exert itself more. Otherwise functioning generallyremains normal in regard to life’s routine chores. At times when the elasticity of the blood v essels is reduced or there is a clot the heart muscle does not receive an adequate amoun t of blood/oxygen and even modest exertion generates chest pains, known as Ang ina Pectoris. APgenerally stops at rest and restarts with exertion or movement.
When the blood supply to the heart muscle is blocke d or reduced by a clot or by the heart remaining in a contracted state the he art muscles do not receive an adequate blood supply and as a result they die. Thi s is called a Myocardial Infarction or Heart Attack. Once dead, individual cells cannot regain life and maximum capability of functioning of the heart thus reduces permanently. If the area of the dead cells is large it may result in completely stopping the functioning of the heart. If the damaged portion is relatively small, the patient ca n live for many years with appropriate treatment.
A rise in the cholesterol level of the blood result s in deposits of cholesterol in the inner periphery of the blood vessels. In such instances blood vessels reduce in diameter thus reducing their capability of carrying blood and there arises a possibility of heart attack. Depending on extent and degree of severity a person may survive such a heart attack, especially if treated immediately, or unfortunately s/he may die.
Although there are many causes forheart trouble, an other major cause behind such troubles is Coronary Vasospasm, a sudden contr action of a coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart. We know this to be tr ue because there have been many examples of major heart attacks to those who did no t have any blockage or clot present. It is also reasonably inferred that a majo r cause of such vasospasms is related 32 to mental stress. Mental tensions affect the hypot halamus, which in turn stimulates the pituitary glands, which then raises the amount of hormones being released, which ultimately results in the generation of spasms in t he coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart. There is, as far as we are aware, no known equally effective option for therelease of mental tension as Yoga.
Study after study of patients suffering from heart disease reveals that a high percentage of such patients are ambitious and aggre ssive persons. And like many ambitious aggressive stressed persons, they manifes t a number of unhealthy addictions such as over-eating, drinking, smoking, and/or being workaholics. Such persons often develop the habit of suppressing thei r emotions, as a result of which their emotions often explode in the form of anger, violence, and/or rage. These types of persons are referred to as Type A personalities and if not treated often fall victim to heart disease.
An intense fear regarding heart disease,almost at a phobic level, and the stress associated thereto, may lead a person to heart dise ase. In such cases, even when their ECG is normal, the patient does not find comfort in it and the fear in their minds that ‘Now I am going to have a heart attack and it will end my life’ increases their heart rates to a level that, ironically, mayactually lead them to a heart attack. The patient also fears that nobody will come for their help in time and even if they receive treatment in time, it will be of no use. This fear manipulates the minds of the patients. The stress caused due to the fear increases the lik elihood of experiencing a heart attack. The fear in these patients’ minds can often be uprooted through Yoga.
There are many potential complications in the treat ment of a heart disease patient. And although modern methods of treatment h ave been developed and are developing every day, if treatment is not received in a timely manner death or irreversible heart muscle damage can be the result. Many hospitals have started Intensive Care Units for this purpose and research regarding heart disease is so ultramodern and effective that death can often be a voided if a patient reaches the hospital in time.
Even if a heart stops functioning injections like a tropine and adrenalin can restart it. Artificial respiration and oxygen cylin ders can also be provided. The Intensive Care Units are well equipped with instrum ents and machinery to keep the patient under constant observation. The graph of th e heart constantly monitors its functioning. Steroids help in reducing the stress p ain-relievers in reducing the pains experienced by the patient.
A patient can be treated very well in an intensive care unit if s/he suffers from heart trouble. But ICU cannot provide the patient w ith preventive measures to avoid admission to the ICU in the first place. Again, yog ic practice is absolutely the best way we know of for that purpose.
In case of an actual heart attack, the patient has to be treated medically and Yoga helps very little. Chest pain is often a signi ficant and initial symptom in case of heart attack. The center of pain lies in the heart muscle itself and it spreads in the surrounding part. In addition to this, sweating, tr emendous weakness, fast respiration (trouble in breathing), and vomiting are other symp toms one may come across. The foremost step - to be taken immediately - is to adm it the patient in the Intensive Care Unit of a good quality hospital. Medication is the only option here. The patient also 33 needs complete rest. Once the patient recovers with the help of medication, Yogic treatment can be started as supplementary treatment .
The beginnings of heart trouble may take a person c lose to death. At the same time Yogic practices can keep death at a distance. Yoga is beneficial for a healthy heart as well as a malfunctioning heart and can bri ng the heart from the damaged condition to a more healthy condition. It is always an individual decision as to whether one practices Yoga, before and/or after suf fering heart trouble. Of course, practicing Yoga before one has any heart trouble ca n serve to keep heart disease far away. As we all know, ‘Prevention is always better than cure,’ which is why we advise the relationship between heart disease and y oga must be more intimate than that between heart disease and death.
What the heart patient needs the most is rest. The most effective way to take rest is through Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is Shavasana performed for a close to an hour with the help of specific instructions to be follow ed mentally. The process is to be carried out without any actual movements. Thus the patient can perform it lying in bed even if s/he has suffered from a major heart at tack and medications are ongoing. The instructions are to be heard by the patient and followed mentally. Yoga Nidra is effective in reducing stress. Breathe rate lowers to significantly, often by close to 50 percent, thus reducing physical and mental tension even more than rest alone.
In the process of Yoga Nidra, various instructions are given constantly for about forty-five minutes. Instructions in recorded form are also permitted. The patient can play his CD player or cassette player and lie o n his/her back in the supine position and mentally follow the instructions. The consequen ce is that the patient may forget his disease for a while. The thought ‘I am sufferin g from heart disease’ haunts him more and causes strain on his mind. This strain may even raise the intensity of the disease. As the patient gets released from these ha unting thoughtsin the process of Yoga Nidra strain is also released. Frequently perf ormed Yoga Nidra gives significant mental relief to the patient.
The patient has to make a resolution in the beginni ng and at the end of Yoga Nidra- ‘I am getting cured of the heart disease and becoming completely fit’. The resolution comes to fulfillment as mental powersare enhanced in the process of Yoga Nidra and the patient benefits thereby in the direc tion of healing. A patient’s reverie that ‘I will never get cured’ will increase the pos sibility of recurrence of heart attack. Conversely, the impression that one is getting cure d actually helps in achieving a cure. This is why the patient’s mental strength mus t increase and this is possible through Yoga Nidra.
Heart disease is a physical ailment. Medicines hel p to cure the disease, butthe ultimate truth is that the body heals itself and me dicines work only as supporting agents. The mind of a heart disease patient is deli cate and sensitive. It is necessary for the heart patient to increase mental strength and r egain mental balance. Mental participation is the prime factor in healing. Good mental energy aids the body and inspires it to heal. This preparation of the mind f or healing the body is increased by the performance of Yoga Nidra. Medicines alone are not capable of doing this. Yoga Nidra can.
It is possible for the patient to perform Yoga Nidr a even after seeking treatment in the hospital after a heart attack. Yog a Nidra helps to reduce the patient’s restlessness as body and mind start responding to m edication. Yoga Nidra helps reduces the quantity and intensity of medicines. It reduces the need for pain-relieving 34 and stress-relieving medicines. It canshorten the length of the healing period forthe patient. Yoga Nidra is especially useful after the patient returns to his/her regular work routine, by givingeffective rest on the physic al level and helping retain/improve physical and emotional balance. This in turn avoids any stress formation and as a result the patient may lead a more comfortable life .
A process similar to Yoga Nidra in helping a heart patient to recover is the chanting or contemplation of the sacred sound of Au m! Even listening to the chanting of Aum is beneficial whether by another person or o n a recording. A patient who has had a heart attack can chant Aum. For those who ca n’t it is suggested they listen to the chanting of Aum much like listeningto Yoga Nidr a.
The vibrations created in the chanting of Aum posit ively affect the body of the listener. As one listens to the Aum, the mind is co ncentrated, the body gets relaxed, and the patient experiences pleasant bodily and men tal sensationsbecause of the vibrations of the Aum. The heart also experiences a gentle massage as the body gets more relaxed. If all these sensations last for a lo nger time, there generates positive communication between the body and the nervous syst em as the body stays in a serene and comfortable state. The trouble due to th e heart disease and the ill effects of medicines can create an imbalance in the body. The body regains this balance in the presence of the sound waves generated by Aum. Aum a lso helps in regaining the co- ordination in functioning of the brain and in recov ering the normal mental state of the patient.
The mind is not stable in the period of illness and many negative thoughts come to it, creating additional stress. Concentrati on on Aum nullifies these thoughts, reducing the patient’s physical and mental tension. This tranquil state of mind cannot be achieved by listening to music as the musical no tes and/or the poetic words are stimulating, whereas listening to the chanting of A um brings stability to the mind and reduces agitation.
As the mind becomes stable and engrossed in Aum a p atient forgets their disease and this tension-free state of the body and mind and th e engrossment in Aum bring about a very soothing experience to the patient, ultimate ly boosting his recovery.
The power in the mantra rendered by the mantra Aum is beyond description by scientific language, nor is it measurable by any instrument, but it can be felt by the body and mind. The effects created by the chanting this powerful mantra alone have relieved many patients of their suffering, disorder , and disease.
We have seen that the processes like Yoga Nidra and chanting of Aum are helpful to the patient as supporting treatments to the medical treatment for a heart attack. These processes improve a patient’s physica l and mental condition. Some other processes like asanas, pranayama and contempl ation are also useful after the patient recovers from the initial attack. But physi cal capacity needs to have increased enough so as to perform these processes.
Contemplation is the art of concentration. Although sage Patanjali has described this step as an advanced one, we consider the study of concentration as useful as soon as a patient starts recovering from the initial heart attack. Contemplation with Aum as the object of support wil l be even more effective. After 35 sufficient practice of chanting of Aum, the patient can sit in a stable position with closed eyes and concentrate his mind on Aum and mai ntain the state of concentration. This is called Contemplation with Aum, which will c reate sereneness and stability of the mind, and last for a long duration. The impact created due to contemplation on the body and the mind will reduce pains and aches, temp erature of the body, rate of metabolism and production of unwanted hormones ulti mately decreasing the body stress and in turn the stress on the heart. Contemp lation also reduces explosion of emotions and transforms them into peaceful sensatio ns, thus promoting a sounder state of the mind and the heart.
Practicing pranayama – breath control – is limited to only gentle inhalation and exhalation exercises for heart patients, absent the use of Bandhas and breath retention because Bandhas and breath retention boos t blood pressure thereby exerting the heart. For heart patients only deep breathing is suggested. This process does not involve much physical effort, and is similar to tha t used in contemplation, the difference being that in contemplation there was vi rtually no movement outside of normal breathing, whereas deep breathing obviously involves the movement of the respiratory organs, as well as the chest and the ab domen. A patient may practice deep breathing only when s/he has regained enough streng th for the required movements and can practice in a way such that no physical str ess is created. There is no need of sitting in any specific asanas for this purpose. Th e patient can perform pranayama while lying down, with folded knees, resting feet n ear hips, and with hands folded above the head in a position called Tadagasana. Rel ax the body in this position, concentrate on breathing and then gradually start d eep breathing at a very slow rate. The inhalation and exhalation must be possible with out difficulty. The duration of inhalation can be increased up to 4 seconds and tha t of exhalation to 8 seconds. After sufficient practice of this type of deep breathing, the patient can practice inhaling by left nostril for 4 seconds and exhaling by right no stril for 8 seconds. This is half a round. To complete the round, inhale by right nostr il (4 seconds) and exhale by left nostril (8 seconds). It is not recommended to incre ase the proportion of inhalation to exhalation above 1:2. When a patient recovers enoug h, and after sufficient practice of deep breathing,s/he can practice deep breathing whi le seated either in Swastikasana or Vajrasana.
Inhalation and exhalation using Ujjaayi Pranayama i s also recommended. In this type of Pranayama, a frictional noise is to be created during inhalation and exhalation. The proportion of inhalation to exhalat ion will still be 1:2 and the process must be carried out with both the nostrils opened t ogether.
Besides Ujjaayi, Sheetali Pranyama is also recommen ded where inhalation is done through the open sides of the mouth and channe l of the tongue while exhalation continues to be carried out through the nostrils wi th mouth closed. Study of all deep breathing gives needful rest to the heart while nor malizing its function and rate.
Noise of a buzzing bee breathing - Bhramaari - is p roduced while exhaling through the mouth with the lips vibration. Inhalat ion with Sheetali and exhalation with Bhramari is also effective and a patient can b e taught these techniques as their capacity to perform allows. If the patient practice s Pranayama according to his fullest capacity, he will soon regain the balance of prana and quickly return to sound health. But remember that breath retention with the trio of Bandhas must be completely avoided.
When a patient is ready to return to his/her daily routine s/he can add some asanas to the above-prescribed treatment practices of Yoga Nidra, study and chanting of Aum, contemplation, and Pranayama. These asanas must be very easy and non- stressfulfor the patient will have to move various body parts and hence must perform asanas only when strong enough to do so. Details ab out easy asanas are given at the end of this book.
The cleansing processes are generally stressful pro cesses. Hence only the very passive process of Jalneti is suggested and useful to the patient, which may be practiced regularly. Other cleansing processes are to be avoided.
One philosophical tenet offered inthe Bhagwad Geeta is “karmanyevaadhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana” (“ perform your deeds with whole and sole sincerity but do not expect fruits f or those deeds”). This attitude and approach to life can be very beneficial for the rec overy of patients suffering from heart disease and ought be prominently reinforcedin all daily chores a recovering patient performs. The philosophy suggests absolute concentration in the deed but entire indifference to outcome after completing it. The person will gain enjoyment by completing a task but without creating any tensions in the mind related to outcome or reward. If the mind is not stable after completing a task it will arouse stress in the doer.
Human beings are nothing but tiny sand particles in the vast and infinite beach of the universe. But we find it hard to accept this fact, perceiving ourselves as central, important, and potentially powerful beings. We have already seen that those individuals whose power perception is very intense are more prone to fall victim to heart disease. Absolute surrender to the Supreme Po wer of the universe is the true devotion, or Bhakti Yoga. Singing musical notes in appreciation of the Lord (Bhajan), worshiping Him (Poojan) and religious nar ration (Keertan) are some of the ways of expressing devotion. And although it cannot be proved scientifically, we strongly believe devotion is an effective way to ov ercome and avoid heart disease. After all, a heart attack is a supreme experience o f one’s relative minuteness and helplessness in face of the infinite. But if Bhakti Yoga is brought into practice from the beginning it will help avoid or contextualize a heart attack.
While medicinal treatment as well as Yogic treatmen t are going on the patient has to strictly avoid certain things. These are pre ventive measures for avoiding heart disease as well. Some of them are as follows:
All addictions are harmful to health and hence to the heart. Smoking and drinking are first on the list and inta ke of either is harmful because poisonous substances like nicotine, carbon monoxide and alcohol mix with blood through the lungs, the blood, and the digestive sys tem and harm the functioning of the body. The more powerful the addiction, the more pot entare its adverse effects. Getting addicted to tobacco and alcohol is a bit like buyin g diseases. Smoking is particularly harmful and directly increases the frequency and in tensity of the heart disease.
The proportion of heart disease can be seen more in the persons working in the sitting position the whole day long rather than in those whose work involves movements and roa ming. Hence those who have to sit in one place for work must exercise by walking and performing Yoga.
The body needs more energy to function if the per son is overweight. The body and the heart have to exert more to produc e this energy thus increasing the possibility of a heart disease. Hence everyone must take efforts to keep the body weight within the practical limit.
In cases of patients suffering from hypertension, it becomes the duty of the heart to produce high blood pressures t hus giving rise to persistent stress on the heart, the consequence of which is to increa se the likelihood of heart disease or a heart attack. High pressure in blood vessels harm the internal portion of the vessels increasing the likelihood of producing deposits of cholesterol there. Rise in blood pressure generates a rise in heart disease. Blood p ressure can be controlled by intake of medicines but this not the permanent remedy. Yog is Therapy is truly the best way to control hypertension.
The amount of blood glucose is high in case of di abetes. This increases the density of blood resulting in require ment of more energy by the heart to pump the blood. The consequence is that the heart m uscles get fatigued earlier giving rise to heart disease. Moreover, the heart muscles do not receive enough glucose due to lack of insulin and as a result they are not abl e to function efficiently. Hence diabetic patients must control their blood sugar an d get rid of diabetes or its impacts as early and fully as possible. This too can be ach ieved with the practice of Yoga.
Vegetarian food without fatty and spicy substances is beneficial to the patient. Fruits and vegetables in the natural form are a boo n to the patient. A natural, fresh diet will help the patient in his recovery.
Non-vegetarian diet, hot and spicy food, oils, ghee , bakery products, milk products, chocolates, banana are the substances to be avoided.
Yogic practices can only be started after the consu ltation with medical consultant of the patient
Shavasana, Yoga Nidra & Om Chanting
Basic movements (Yoga Sopan book) with very slow speed. All Asanas are to be practiced on Level – 1
Tadagasana, Vajrasana series from Yoga Sopan book, Pavanmuktasana, Ardha Chakrasana, Anantasana, Bhuja ngasana, Dhunurasana, Katichakrasana, Tadasana – Tiryak Tadasana - Shavasana
Anulom Vilom Deep Breathing 15 minutes. Sheetali Purak followed by Bhramari Rechak ( 21 rounds), Ujjayi Pr anayama without kumbhak for 10 minutes.
Meditation on Anahat Chakra with mental recitation of mantra “Yam” Walking for 60 minutes, once a day.
Specially designed for Heart Disease o r for Stress Relief. Om chanting. Karma Yoga
These Asanas are to be practiced after one month pr actice of above Asanas. These Asanas can be practiced on Level – 2. The Asana pos ition should be maintained as long as it is comfortable for the patient.
Vakrasana, Uttanpadasana, Sulabh Ushtrasana . Ushtrasana, Marjarasana, Sankatasana, Ardhamatsyendrasana
Left nostril breathing, Bhramari Pranaya ma without kumbhak
Jal Neti – Agnisar 100 strokes total in 3 to 4 rounds
Surya Namaskar, Sarvangasana, Halasana, Shirshasana (Head stand) & its variations. Fast breathing, Right nostril breathing.Bhastrika P ranayama, Any Pranayama with Kumbhak. Vaman dhouti, Shankha Prakshalana (Laghoo / Purna.)
Suitable :Normal food with less fats & carbohydrate s but with high fibers. Best food is fruits & vegetables
Avoid: Nonveg food, Milk & milk products ( Skimmed milk can be taken), Rice, Oily & Spicy food, refined foods, Fast Food, Preserved F ood. Salts.
Daily Practice: after completing the prescribed pr ogram.
|No.||Asana / Yoga technique||Duration in min.|
|01||Shavasana (Corpse pose)||3|
|02||Basic Movements all Types||15|
|04||Vajrasana Series from Yoga Sopan Book||10|
|07||Dhanurasana (Bow pose)||1|
|14||Tadasana, Tiryak Tadasana||2|
|17||Anulom Vilom, Deep Breathing||10|
|18||Sheetali Purek & Bhramari Rechak||10|
|19||Ujjayi breathing without Kumbhak||10|
|Total Time||90 min|
|Omkar Chanting||30 min|
|Jala Neti ( once a week )|
|Yoga Nidra for Stress relief (Once a day)||30 min|
|YogaListen Omkar chanting throughout the night|
|Meditation on Anahat Chakra with mantra “Yam”|
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