Keeping the heart healthy is essential to living a long and active life. The heart works hard for us every day; its steady beat pumping blood through our arteries, bringing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body. It’s common knowledge that a good diet and regular exercise are both key elements to keeping our cardiovascular system healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that we either exercise moderately for at least two and a half hours every week or exercise vigorously for 75 minutes per week.
Practicing yoga asanas falls into both categories. Moderate exercise would be practicing the poses as I do on most of my TV shows and DVDs, holding the poses for a certain amount of time with short rests in between. Even just half an hour every other day adds up to those two and a half hours. For a more vigorous asana practice you can do a fairly fast vinyasa session based on the movements of Salute to the Sun.
When practicing Salute to the Sun, it’s always good to start with a few slow rounds to warm up your body and loosen tight muscles. As you feel your body getting warm and more pliable, you can move a little faster and stretch more deeply into the poses. Pay attention to your breath as you move through the sequence. Try to keep it even and smooth. This will enhance the effects of your practice. When practicing a slow version, you can breathe evenly as you hold each position, but when flowing faster, inhale or exhale just once for each step of the pose (you can see the instructions here).
Feel the tingly glow developing throughout your whole body as you continue to practice, a sure sign that you are giving your heart (and lungs) a good workout. One caution though. If you suffer from high blood pressure, consult your doctor to make sure that Salute to the Sun is suitable for you.