Yoga for Improved Blood Flow
Yoga is a great form of low-impact exercise that increases flexibility, improves mood, improves muscle tone, and improves blood flow. Asanas, or movements, work to stretch your muscles and connective tissues and facilitate blood circulation through the entire body. Specific movements to increase blood circulation involve positions that expand the chest and rib cage. The movements open the space around the heart, which is the vital organ for blood circulation throughout the body. Inversions, which is when your heart is above your chest (upside-down poses) are also beneficial because they draw blood to the brain and relieve some of the pressure from the heart. The following 10 poses or movements are intended to improve blood circulation, so doing these daily or a few times a week can be beneficial for heart health.
Yoga Asanas (movements)
- Cat-cow pose – start on your hands and knees and untuck your toes so the tops of your feet touch your mat, breathe in and lift your head to gaze towards the ceiling, breathe out while your head drops back down and let your gaze fall between your thighs. Use your palms to push the floor away as you increase the stretch between your shoulders and dome out your backside. Repeat for a few breaths and make sure your movements are slow and controlled.
- Downward facing dog pose – start on your hands and knees, lift your knees up so the back of your legs start to straighten and your heels melt to the floor. Move your hips towards the ceiling. Try to touch the entire bottoms of your feet to the floor while straightening your legs. Push the mat away with your palms and focus on putting pressure in your thumbs and index fingers. Breathe slowly and hold the pose for about a minute.
- Mountain pose – stand with your feet hips-width distance apart, making sure your head, shoulder, and glutes are aligned. Your hands should be by the sides of your body with palms facing the front of the room. Slowly move your arms upwards so your biceps are by your ears. Even though your arms are raised, your shoulders should be lowered into their sockets and away from your ears. Breathe in and hold this posture for about 30 seconds.
- Shoulder stand pose – lie on your back and bend your knees and slowly lift your legs over your torso, with your legs straight in the air. Use your hands to support your back and rest your elbows on the ground. Slowly start to push your torso with your hands so your entire body moves to the back of the room, you should be balancing your body only on your shoulders, and your chest will naturally push into your chin. Gaze towards your heart and hold this pose for 30 seconds and slowly lower down.
- Legs up the wall pose – start by lying on your back near a wall and get your hips as close as possible to the wall, then walk your feet up the wall. Your body should be in an “L” position, with your arms resting by your sides. You can place a pillow under your lower back for more support. Stay in this pose for about 10 minutes, breathing in and out steadily.
- Low lunge pose – stand with your spine straight, then take a big step back with your right foot so the heel is lifted and only your toes are touching the floor. Lower your right knee to the floor, and make sure your hips are level with each other and are squared to the front of the room. Inhale and lift your chest upwards while sweeping your arms next to your ears. Gaze straight ahead, exhale and lower your hands back to the ground. Hold this pose for a few breaths and repeat for the left leg.
- Chair pose – start standing with your feet flat on the floor. Your feet can either be hips-width distance apart or together so your big toes touch, it is up to your and your comfort. Bend your knees and sink your weight in your heels as you lower down. Tuck your tailbone in and make sure your glutes are pointed down as you envision yourself about to sit on a chair. Lift your arms to the sky so your biceps are by your ears. Gaze to the top of your yoga mat, hold the posture for a few breaths.
- Standing forward bend pose – stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Raise your arms to the sky, and with a flat back, bend forward from your hips and bring your torso towards your knees. Move your hands to the floor for support but try not to bend your knees. Inch your nose closer to your knees and hold this posture for a few rounds of breath.
- Locust pose – lie down on your stomach with your arms by your side and your legs together. Interlock both palms behind you, breathe out, as you inhale, lift your shoulders and legs upwards. Hold the position for a few breaths, lower down and exhale. Repeat the movement and as you inhale, try to bring your chest, arms, and legs higher than the last time.
- Bridge pose – lay down on your back with your arms by your sides. Bend your knees and move your feet closer to your body so your heels are close to your glutes. As you inhale, press your feet into the floor and lift your hips towards the sky. As you’re lifted, make sure your knees are parallel to each other and don’t splay outwards. As you exhale, slowly lower down one vertebrae at a time. Use a block underneath your tailbone if you need extra support. Hold the position for a few breaths and repeat.
These yoga exercises done on a daily for a few times a week basis can help increase blood flow and circulation throughout the body. It is important that you listen to your body however, and if a movement is painful or uncomfortable, please slowly get out of the pose and move on to the next pose. As you move, be mindful of staying relaxed and calm and breathing through each pose slowly.