There are several different types of yoga, so the benefits you receive from practicing yoga depend on which style you choose, and on the intensity of the poses you’re capable of completing. In general, however, practicing yoga poses can reduce your resting heart rate by increasing your overall fitness level. Additionally, any form of yoga that includes breathing exercises and meditation may reduce your stress levels, which also helps in reducing your resting heart rate.
Resting Heart Rate
As the name indicates, your resting heart rate measures the number of times your heart beats each minute when you’re at rest. Your heart rate increases when you’re active, or even when you’re anticipating performing some activity. It also increases when you’re in extremely high or low temperatures or altitudes. The resting heart rate is a good indicator of your overall fitness level. Trained athletes, for example, often have very low resting heart rates, which indicates that their hearts are working efficiently.
Determine Your Resting Heart Rate
Check your heart rate when you’ve been resting for at least four hours, you haven’t eaten in the previous two hours, and when you’ve been sitting or lying down for at least 30 minutes. A good time to check your resting heart rate is when you wake up in the morning. Just remain in bed, lying down, and place your index and middle fingers to the side of your upper neck where you can feel the pulse. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by six, or go for 20 seconds and multiply by three. Repeat the test on five consecutive mornings and average the results. A normal resting heart rate varies from 50 to 100 beats per minute.
Lower Your Heart Rate with Yoga
In a 2010 study published by the "International Journal of Biological & Medical Research," 50 participants performed one hour of daily yoga for six months. Their heart rates, blood pressure and weight were tested periodically. The group achieved slight improvements after two months, but saw significant results after four months. After six months, the group’s average heart rate had dropped from 77.8 beats per minute to 71.3. Additionally, the group lowered its average blood pressure readings and lost an average of 1.9 kilograms of weight (a bit more than 4 pounds).
Other Yoga Benefits
All else being equal, adding yoga to your life is likely to offer you some benefits, which may include lower blood pressure, some stress relief, increased flexibility and a lower resting heart rate. In some cases yoga can also help you lose weight and manage some chronic conditions, particularly when it’s part of an overall health program, according to the Mayo Clinic. See your doctor before taking up yoga, then find an experienced instructor teaching a beginning class. To have the best chance of reducing your resting heart rate, make sure your class includes meditation and controlled breathing exercises.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.