Yoga has been practised for at least the last 2500 to 5000 years. Millions of people are yoga practitioners in the UK and the US . Importantly, those who practise yoga are also into other forms of exercise, such as cycling, weight lifting and running.
The benefits of combining yoga with exercise have been well-known in the healthcare community. This form of training has been well studied and found to be effective in improving health and well-being in individuals with different conditions, including those with mental health conditions to those with cancer.
Importantly, yoga has been linked with longevity. Well-designed and multiple studies have shown that yoga practice is positively associated with better mobility and balance, reduced incidence of cellular aging and prevention of cognitive decline – all areas of concern for older people. Implementing yoga practice is well supported in literature to be cost-effective in reducing the effects of ageing and promoting longevity .
Numerous reviews and studies have reported on the effects of yoga practice on mental health, such as resilience, mindfulness, happiness, affect, satisfaction with life, well-being, social relationships and self-compassion . Other studies report on the positive effects of yoga on various psychiatric and psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, eating disorders, anxiety disorders or sleep problems.
Current studies have been carried out to examine further the additional benefits of yoga on the overall health of different groups of individuals or patients. These studies add evidence on how yoga can promote longevity. One way of promoting longevity is to improve cardiovascular health.
A recent pilot study  reports that yoga is scientifically effective in improving cardiovascular health and well-being.
The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, recruited 60 individuals diagnosed with hypertension. All individuals participated in an exercise programme, while half were randomly assigned to a yoga group and the other half to a stretching group.
Participants in the aerobic exercise and yoga group performed 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 minutes of yoga five times a week for three months or 12 weeks. Those in the stretching group also performed aerobic exercises for 30 minutes and 15 minutes of stretching.
Blood pressure, glucose and lipid levels, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), anthropometry and the Framingham and Reynolds Risk Scores were recorded at baseline and the end of the 3-month study. There was no difference between the body mass index (BMI), age, sex, resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures, smoking rates, pulse pressure and heart rate at baseline between the two groups.
At the end of 3 months, both groups experienced a decrease in their resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The average (mean) heart rate and arterial blood pressure also decreased in both groups. However, the decrease in systolic blood pressure in the yoga group was significantly lower at ten mmHg versus the stretching group, which reduced their mean systolic blood pressure by four mmHg. Using Reynold’s Risk score, the yoga approach also reduced the 10-year cardiovascular risk and resting heart rate.
Although yoga is effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and systolic blood pressure, the exact mechanism underlying the effects of yoga is not yet fully understood. The pilot randomised study shows that when compared to stretching, adding yoga to aerobic exercise would yield positive benefits for hypertensive patients. However, the benefits could not be attributed alone to yoga.
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One of the authors noted that the study provides evidence that hypertensive patients can add non-pharmacologic therapy options such as yoga to their regular exercise programme. Further, yoga is cost-effective and can be used as part of a primary prevention exercise programme.
The authors also encourage individuals with hypertension to find an exercise programme and strategies to reduce and manage the stress that appeals to them. The study shows that individuals can choose structured yoga practices rather than simple stretching to manage their cardiovascular disease or risks and hypertension.
One of the lead authors, Paul Porier, MD, PhD, faculty of Pharmacy, Laval University, Quebec, Canada and member of the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute- Laval University, stated that “while there is some evidence that yoga interventions and exercise have equal and superior cardiovascular outcomes, there is considerable variability in yoga types, components, frequency, session length, duration and intensity. We sought to apply a rigorous scientific approach to identify cardiovascular risk factors for which yoga is beneficial for at-risk patients and ways it could be applied in a healthcare setting such as a primary prevention program.”
The pilot study affirms that adding yoga to aerobic exercise could improve health, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and manage hypertension. However, individuals should note that different yoga types and duration or intensities exist. Choosing the appropriate yoga type would depend on the preference of the individual. It is advised that individuals can safely engage in yoga by selecting the less strenuous exercise and adjusting it to more rigorous types as one adjusts to the programme.
Yoga in many parts of the world is not only an exercise regimen but is also viewed as a spiritual practice. Besides benefiting physical health, the spiritual aspect of yoga could also help mental health.
A systematic review  reported that spirituality and yoga practice are positively associated. Participants of the studies in the systematic review observed that engaging in yoga helped them gain wisdom and insights and improved their spiritual aspirations. However, constant and sustained practice is needed to harness the benefit of yoga.
Engaging in a practice well accepted by millions of people worldwide may be vital to achieving longevity, a healthier life span and better health and well-being.
Yoga comprises various moral, mental, physical and spiritual practices to improve self-awareness, well-being and holistic health. This could explain why yoga and exercise could positively benefit adults, especially older adults. While ageing is a natural phenomenon, this does not mean that individuals who age would also experience poor health. Healthy ageing, as a goal, is within reach through proper diet, exercise and the addition of yoga.
The benefits of yoga are well documented in the literature. This is effective in promoting the overall health and well-being of individuals and in those suffering from long-term conditions.
Since people want to live longer and healthier lives as they age, employing strategies that promote longevity would benefit many people.
Currently, many yoga support groups on social media and in community settings offer information about yoga. Attending these support groups would be an essential step towards longevity. Finding information from your local community health boards or through yoga websites could connect you to yoga practitioners willing to help you in your journey to wellness and longevity.
Communities can also benefit from the implementation of yoga. This practice is cost-effective in promoting the health of older adults in community settings. Community leaders can encourage community members to participate in yoga to promote cardiovascular health and prevent hypertension.
Longevity is within reach. With the practice of yoga, people can live healthier and longer lives.
Yoga is widespread worldwide, with many practitioners benefitting from this form of exercise. You can begin benefitting from yoga and start your journey to wellness and longevity. You can start signing up with local yoga groups to help ward off heart disease and hypertension. However, it is still best to consult your doctor if you have any hypertension or cardiovascular disease to ensure that the exercise regimen benefits you.
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