Does Yoga Help for Cholesterol Control?

High cholesterol is one of those alarming factors that can invite many health conditions including diabetes, stroke, and heart diseases.

Fortunately, yoga exercises and pranayama in conjunction with a healthy diet intake can help to lower cholesterol. It can even help you avoid taking medication to control your condition.

In this article, you will know what yoga poses and pranayama breathing exercises are effective in reducing cholesterol levels. Moreover, knowing how these yoga practices work will give you more insights to control your condition. But first, let’s take a step back to understand what high cholesterol level exactly is.

High Cholesterol Level

Cholesterol deposits narrowing blood arteries. Image: Canva

Cholesterol is an oil-based substance that moves with the blood through your body via a tiny package called lipoproteins. Your body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, Vitamin D, bile, and to aid in the digestion process.

A cholesterol test measures two main types of cholesterol in your blood

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol

High cholesterol is an increased concentration of total and LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. For adults, an LDL value of 160 mg/dL or higher is considered a high cholesterol level.

How Does Yoga Lower Cholesterol?

Yoga is known to provide certain health benefits, that nicely correlates with the reduction of cholesterol. Regular practice of asanas will help you exercise your arteries, the muscles surrounding them and regulate the blood flow within them. This combination of benefits could break down the cholesterol deposit.

Moreover, yoga poses and pranayama benefiting your abdominal health could encourage your liver to produce more HDL, “good” cholesterol. Further HDL helps in mobilizing the LDL build-up or remove blockages in your arteries and bringing them back to your liver for excretion.

Finally, if you have a diet rich in cholesterol (which you should not) then your liver will accumulate more fat than it can detox. As a result, you will have a fatty liver. Yoga poses for digestion will stimulate and boost the detox functions in your liver, reducing your chances of acquiring a fatty liver.

1. Yoga reduces chance of high blood pressure

The cholesterol build-up within your arteries also attract other unabsorbed nutrients. Eventually, a plaque builds up, creating a blockage within your arteries. This blockage further increases blood pressure.

If Yoga practices can clear out the cholesterol deposits, it will reduce one preliminary cause of high blood pressure. Consequently, protecting you from risks of heart attack, coronary diseases, fatty liver, kidney disorders, and strokes.

2. Yoga optimizes fat in your bloodstream

Obesity and high cholesterol have a very close interaction. Most often it is found that obese people have a high cholesterol level, and vice versa. In both cases, however, the fat levels in the bloodstream are quite high.

Yoga asanas will help you optimize your metabolic activities, hormonal balance, and HDL levels, which should eventually reduce the levels of LDL and triglycerides in your blood.

3. Yoga trains you for self-restraint

A typical challenge of high cholesterol levels is poor exercise and poor diet. Poor exercise dampens your metabolism and a poor diet continues to intake harmful nutrients. So what causes this negligence? Lack of Self-restraint from gluttony and laziness.

Yoga stimulates your CNS, especially the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision making, willpower, and self-control. Stimulating this area of your brain, yoga poses help you effectively withhold from cholesterol increasing food and increase your physical activities.

What science says?

Scientific research showing yoga’s effect on cholesterol control. Image: Canva

Theoretically, yoga has known benefits that could lead up to the reduction of cholesterol. However, the practical studies fall short in quantity. There are however few studies highlighting the potential of yoga, but, the volume is simply too less to draw a mass-scale conclusion.

A research study by the Indian heart journal shows that 3-months of yoga intervention reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL 1. In this study, total cholesterol levels were reduced by up to 30% and the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, were lowered between 14% and 35%.

Another research issued by the International Journal of Gynecology and obstetrics shows that yoga increases HDL and improves overall lipid profile2. The study also shows benefits in insulin levels and glucose metabolism.

Best Yoga Poses for Reducing Cholesterol

People with high cholesterol often suffer from poor blood circulation. This puts them at an incapability to try heavy exercises.  

Yoga poses are little demanding and more providing, both to your muscles and body functions in case of high cholesterol levels.

Try the following simple yoga poses that could effectively lower your cholesterol levels. Although, do consult an experienced yoga practitioner, to ensure if the asanas are compatible with your physical condition.

1. Seated forward bend – Paschimottanasana

seated forward bend pose/paschimottanasana
Paschimottanasana. Image Source: Shutterstock

The seated position of forward bend is the base of many poses, and it benefits your digestive and excretory systems.

Paschimottanasana pose particularly helpful in boosting the LDL detox functions in your liver. The forward seated bend has high efficacy in losing belly fat, which is a major contributor to high cholesterol deposits.

  • Sit in a staff pose
  • Keep your upper body erect
  • Raise your hands overhead
  • Keeping your spine straight, bend forward.
  • Bend to a point where you can touch your feet with your hands.
  • Don’t break your knee.
  • Breathe steadily, and hold the pose for 10 counts.
  • Return to staff pose and relax for transitioning to the next pose.

Do not force your bend. Keep the lumbar region consciously stretched. If required initially keep your knees pressed down, and hold the ground with the other hand to support your bend.

2. Seated spinal twist – Ardha Matsyendrasana

ardha matsyendrasana how to do and steps cues
Image Source: Canva

The seated spinal twist is going to be a very relaxing pose. It will release tension from your upper body. It will relax the muscle and increase the range of motion in your joints.

The abdominal twist will also improve your liver functions; including HDL production and LDL detox. To do seated spinal twist for cholesterol control:

  • Continue from staff position
  • Bend your right knee and fold it up.
  • Take your right foot over your left knee, and take it to the left side of your left knee.
  • Place your right heel against your left knee.
  • Keep your upper body straight.
  • Hold your right knee with your left hand
  • Twist your upper body from your torso, and turn to your right.
  • Turn by 90 degrees, your chest should be facing your right.
  • Plant your right palm on the floor behind you, lock your hand and thus your pose.
  • Look towards your right shoulder.
  • Take 5-7 breaths.
  • Repeat the pose by twisting to your left.
  • Return to your staff position and rest.

Breathing in this pose might seem difficult because of the spinal twist. You will have to conscious of your body to hold your pose, yet relax all your muscles, once you are in hold. Relaxing the muscles will help you breath all the down to your lower back.

3. Shoulder stand – Sarvangasana

salamba sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand)
Image: Canva

To lower cholesterol deposits, shoulder stand pose improves your blood circulation and artery health in general. The inverted pose also brings more blood to your abdomen region, enhancing your metabolism. And finally, this pose motivates your lymphatic system, which works mostly to rid your body of waste materials.

  • Continue from your staff position.
  • Gently recline back, and lie supine.
  • Keep your legs joined.
  • Bend and fold up your legs.
  • Raise up your upper body ( from below your shoulders) and legs.
  • Balance your body and legs upward on your shoulders.
  • Slowly maintaining your balance stretch your legs straight upward.
  • Support with your hands, by holding up your position, at your hips.
  • Look down towards your heart.
  • Breathe, and hold Your pose for 30 seconds to a minute.

It will take some time for you to find the balance. Actively engage your leg muscles, abs, glutes and lower back muscles to adjust your muscles. Once you have found the balance try and concentrate on relaxing your muscles.

4. Plow Pose – Halasana

halasana
Image: Canva

The plow pose is an appropriate pose to enhance your metabolism and hormonal activities to reduce cholesterol. This pose compresses your liver and stimulates your gut nerves, which improve your overall abdominal functions. This pose is very effective in enhancing your nutrients absorption as well. The plow pose also helps reduce fat deposits.

  • You can get into the plow pose from the shoulder stand itself.
  • As you are in your shoulder stand pose, bend your legs from your groin and bring them down over your head.
  • Hold your hip with your hands to support your leg movement..
  • Bring down your legs till you can touch the floor with your toes.
  • Keep your hands as support.
  • Breathe for about 10 seconds and hold the pose.
  • Release your pose and return to lying supine.

As you bring down your legs do not bend your knees. Also your knees might tend to extend outward. You will have to resist that as well. The best way to ease the lowering of your legs is by taking multiple stops on the way down, and spacing them with prominent breaths.

5. Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

Cobra-Pose for back pain
Image: Canva

Cobra pose is a holistic pose that benefits your abdominal organs, cardiovascular organs, respiratory organs and your CNS.

The spinal stretch of cobra acts uniquely along the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, providing a wide range of neuro-gastro-endocrinal benefits, including lowering your cholesterol.

  • As you continue lying supine from the previous pose.
  • You should have taken a few seconds of rest after the plow pose.
  • Roll over and lie on the front of your body.
  • Place your hands by the side of your body.
  • Push against the floor and arch up your body from your hips 
  • Keep your legs joined and stretch your toes out.
  • Arch up your spine to a point where you can Look straight Infront.
  • Push your shoulders down and push your chest out.
  • Keep the arch in your spine even.
  • Breathe steadily for 5-7 breaths.
  • Repeat the pose three times.

Your spine might not be naturally flexible for this pose. It might resist the arch at the beginning. Take it slow, use your abs to finely guide your arch. You can warm up for cobra pose, by trying the sphinx pose. Where you arch up by resting your elbows on the ground.

6. Child’s Pose

balasana (child's pose)
Image: Canva

The child’s pose is a very relaxing pose. Relaxing for your muscles, nerves, spines, brain, and abdominal organs. The relaxing nature of this pose optimizes blood circulation, blood pressure, and stress levels. In this way, child pose is a great motivator of cell regeneration & cholesterol depletion throughout your body.

  • Kneel down on the floor, keeping your legs hip length apart.
  • Bend and fold your legs and sit back, on folded knees. Sit between your feet.
  • Keep your upper body straight.
  • Raise your hands overhead and bend forward.
  • Bend forward stretching out your upper body.
  • Bend till you touch the ground with your forehead, and your chest touches your thighs.
  • Stretch out your hands on the floor.
  • Breathe steadily, and rest in this pose for 30 seconds.

If you have knee or ankle issues you can keep a folded blanket between your feet and sit on it. You can also place a yoga block infront of you and rest your forehead on it.

References

  1. Effects of yoga intervention on lipid profile https://www.sciencedirect.com/science
  2. Effects of yoga program on glucose metabolism and blood lipid levels https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/

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