What Should Yoga Teachers Know About Heart Problems?

What Should Yoga Teachers Know About Students With Heart Problems?

heart problems and care with yogaBy Faye Martins

Yoga is good for you, and we all know that. As a yoga teacher, you have the ability to help people deal with a lot of health problems, and heart problems are no different. According to Dr. Suzie Bertisch, a medical instructor at Harvard, the benefits of Yoga for the heart are quite immense. In addition to making the body healthy, it helps to improve the symptoms of heart failure, ease palpitations, enhance the rehabilitation of the heart and reduce blood pressure. Now, if you have someone in your class with heart problems, you need to take special consideration so that you can help them get healthy, while also not pushing their heart too much.

Techniques to Avoid

Most importantly, students with heart problems should consult their doctors. Each patient, cause, and case is unique. Potential students need to be completely informed about what they can and cannot do. Additionally, a note from a cardiologist or family doctor helps the Yoga instructor modify the student’s practice. Of course, Yoga teachers should be aware of common precautions. However, students really need to be informed about their health and limitations.


Generalized Precautions

There are Yoga poses that should be avoided if a student has health problems. First of all, poses with long-held inversions should be avoided, as well as poses that involve steep inversions. Additionally, any technique that involves holding the breath, or having intense breathing, should be avoided. In addition, unsupported inversions should not be attempted because this will put the weight of abdominal organs on the upper half of the body, and that can put a strain on the heart.


Specialist Classes for Heart Health

Yoga is a gentle method to improve heart health, but there are some things that Yoga teachers should keep in mind when teaching students with heart problems. First, it’s important to use gentle techniques. Second, be aware of the student’s limitations. Third, make sure the student is comfortable and not in pain. Fourth, specialist classes monitor the student’s heart rate and blood pressure. Fifth, be aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. If you are ever in doubt, always err on the side of caution and seek medical help. Finally, a specialist heart health class is going to be the safest atmosphere for heart patients.


Breathing and Meditation

An excellent idea is to teach your students breathing practices and meditation. Along with restorative postures, they can be very effective in healing heart conditions. These exercises help to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will help to relax the mind and the body and reduce stress on the individual.


Yogic Breathing (Pranayama)

Yoga teachers should be aware of the possible benefits of pranayama for students with heart problems. Pranayama is a type of breathing exercise that can help to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. For students with heart problems, it is important to start with simple exercises and build up gradually. It is also important to check with a doctor before starting any new exercise program.



Meditation has been shown to be beneficial for heart health. Research is promising and there are positive results in lowering blood pressure and heart rate for meditation practitioners. Research has also found that meditation can help to reduce the risk of heart problems. Yoga teachers should be aware of this research and should encourage their students with heart problems to meditate regularly.


Consider Styles

There are styles that may benefit heart tissues and some poses that are vigorous can be done as long as the stamina is built up over time. If someone is non-active and suddenly wants to do some intense yoga positions, it is in your best interest to prevent them from doing that. Students, who have problems with heat, should avoid any sort of Bikram-style yoga, or hot yoga as this can also put extra strain on the heart of the student.


Expanding The Chest

As a teacher, the poses that you should be having your student focus on are poses that will relax the mind and the body, while also helping to expand the chest. These are poses that use the expanded chest to allow for deep breaths, which help students expand their lungs without force. By doing this, the student will improve his or her health during class and throughout life. For example, Camel Pose is usually a great Yoga posture for people with heart problems. It helps to improve blood circulation and strengthen the heart muscles. Camel Pose also helps to reduce stress and anxiety, which can be helpful for people with heart problems.


Food for Thought

Again, if students have a heart condition, you should encourage them to speak with their doctor first to ensure that yoga will benefit them, rather than increase their risk. You want them to be healthy, and sometimes even starting slow can aggravate the heart. By getting the okay from the doctor, you are ensured that your students are going to be okay during exercises. Yoga has been proven to help people with heart conditions, and it can help your students. As long as you keep things safe, and plan out the exercises for heart condition students, everyone will have a great time getting healthy.


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Related Research

Toise SC, Sears SF, Schoenfeld MHet al. . Psychosocial and cardiac outcomes of yoga for ICD patients: a randomized clinical control trial. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol 2013; 37: 48–62.

Dabhade AM, Pawar BH, Ghunage MSet al. . Effect of pranayama (breathing exercise) on arrhythmias in the human. Heart Explore (NY) 2012; 8: 12–15.

Pullen PR, Thompson WR, Benardot Det al. . Benefits of yoga for African American heart failure patients. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42: 651–657.

Yancy CW, Benjamin EJ, Fabunmi RPet al. . Discovering the full spectrum of cardiovascular disease: Minority Health Summit 2003: executive summary. Circulation 2005; 111: 1339–1349.

Jayasinghe SR. Yoga in cardiac health (a review). Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil 2004; 11: 369–375.

9 thoughts on “What Should Yoga Teachers Know About Students With Heart Problems?”

  1. An excellent idea is to teach your students breathing practices and meditation. Along with restorative postures, they can be very effective in healing heart conditions. Thanks for sharing this valuable article!

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