About Yoga and Heart Rate Variability

yoga and heart rate variabilityBy Faye Martins

What is heart rate variability (HRV)? How does it relate to our health and our Yoga practice, especially Yoga Nidra? Over the past two decades, scientists have confirmed the importance of the autonomic nervous system in physical, emotional, and mental health. That said, one of the markers the medical field uses to measure the autonomic nervous system’s effect on the body is heart rate variability. Although related to heart rate and blood pressure, HRV actually measures the fluctuations, or intervals, from one heartbeat to the next.

 

Heart Related Terminology

Equally important, let’s define a few common phrases to make this relationship easier to understand.

Heart rate – the number of times the heart beats within a given time, usually a minute.

Heart rate variability – a measurement of the intervals of time between individual heart beats.

Blood pressure – the pressure of the blood against the inner walls of blood vessels, especially the arteries.

Autonomic nervous system – the system that controls involuntary actions like breathing, heart rate, and digestion.

Yoga Nidra – Yogic sleep; deeply relaxed state of the body and mind in which brain waves slow down and consciousness expands.

 

What Affects Heart Rate Variability?

As a matter of fact, the healthiest hearts don’t beat with the regularity of Big Ben. In reality, our hearts are in a rapid state of flux, influenced by physiological and emotional factors. Consequently, when a deer leaps in front of our car, our heart beat speeds up and our body pumps out adrenaline. At the same time, we slam on the brakes, respond to the crisis, and our body gradually returns to normal.

 

Real Life

Uniquely, that’s not the way it works in the modern world. Besieged with a constant onslaught of technological, environmental, and personal stress, our bodies get stuck in panic mode, upsetting the balance of our physical bodies and revving up our heart in an irregular cycle that destroys our health.

 

How Does Yoga Nidra Help?

In addition to the waves of research about the benefits of Yoga, scientists have studied the effects of other techniques, such as meditation and biofeedback, on heart rate variability. As a matter of fact, an action as simple as placing our hand on our heart is a start. Then, while feeling a state of gratitude, we can aid in stabilizing the autonomic nervous system. With this in mind, we have passive influence in regulating the heart beat. In other words, making gratitude, relaxation, and happiness a part of our daily lives is good for heart health.

 

Going Deep

It is important to realize that Yoga Nidra, or Yogic sleep, goes a step further. During this state, we go into a deeply relaxed frame of mind. In turn, this allows us to connect with our subconscious wisdom. Yoga Nidra provides the most compelling evidence of inner calm. To explain, brain waves slow down, the body restores itself, and consciousness expands. Specifically, it is in the state of Yoga Nidra that we are able to create transformation and healing. On the positive side, our mindset can be conditioned to take on the challenges of life.

 

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