The Yoga Way Of Life For Heart Health
Heart is the most important organ of our body. Thirty percent of all deaths in the world are because of heart-related issues. That is why anything that is most important is described as being at the heart of the issue. While medical science has its own prescription for preventing or curing heart diseases, yoga provides an excellent preventive lifestyle.
Stress is identified as the No1enemy of the heart. Stress is a result of speed of thought in the mind and negative emotions. Yoga is a technique, for slowing down speed of the mind and making it quieter and more focused. Yoga’s benefit to the body comes through mind improvement. Patanjali’s definition of yoga is ‘yogaschit vriti nirodhah’ – controlling modification of mind is yoga. Vashishta said, ‘Manasah prashamansya upayah’ – Yoga is a technique of making the mind quiet.
Heart is associated with cleansing and pumping fresh blood in the body. Blood gets purified by oxygen and oxygen is infused by prana. Pranayama, which is part of yoga, is therefore a very useful technique for regularising flow of breath in the body. That helps our heart. Cleansing techniques of yoga called kriyas, such as kapalbhati, are also useful in detoxifying our lungs. That improves supply of oxygen, too.
Heart is more than an organ; it signifies emotions, too. When someone is in love, he feels it in his heart. And when love fails, he says his heart is broken. Love comes with a set of other emotions such as care and concern for the beloved, devotion, loyalty, trust, happiness and surrender. These emotions are part of Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti Yoga promotes true love. Having trust in the justice system of God and having unconditional loving relationship with God is bhakti yoga. It makes us secure. It reduces stress.
Heart is also associated with compassion. When we say, ‘have a heart’, it means ‘be compassionate, have mercy’. Compassion to all is a divine quality; it comes from the heart. And it fills the heart with good, positive feelings. When we have enjoyed something thoroughly, we say ‘I had a heartful of music today’. This signifies contentment, one of the prescriptions of Ashtanga Yoga.
Heart signifies courage, too. We say this all the time – Someone who shows courage is called a ‘braveheart’. Courage comes from strong will power. It comes from understanding the reality of who I am. When one knows Self to be an indestructible, ever-present entity, and not mere body-mind complex, one gets real courage to do big things. This knowledge of Self comes from Jnana Yoga, logical understanding of who I am, through study of Vedanta.
Yoga for heart is not limited to asana and pranayama. It is a way of life. Asana, pranayama and meditation have to be part of one’s daily routine. But in addition, one has to also understand and implement principles of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
Carrying on one’s given duty in life without selfishness, carelessness and ego, is Karma Yoga. Having trusting relationship with the Creator is Bhakti Yoga. And daily study of scriptures/ good literature to understand who I am is part of Jnana Yoga. Adopting these practices is to live a yoga way of life. That will keep your heart in place. (Tomorrow is World Heart Day). Hasmukh Adhia is former finance secretary, Government of India.