Yoga can put the brakes on rising cholesterol. Studies show that the low-impact workout has the proverbial butterfly effect – triggering happiness hormones, weight loss and positivity that lower stress and improve overall health.
Most forms of yoga are quite gentle and focus on breathing, but it’s still a good idea to practice with a trained teacher. If your cholesterol is over 240 milligrams per deciliter (or more than 100mg of LDL or the bad cholesterol), you may want to consult a yoga therapist to customise a sequence based on your health.
That said, there are a few yoga poses that are said to change how the body makes and uses cholesterol:
Half lord of the fishes pose or Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Sit on a mat with your legs straight in front of you. Now, bend the knees so your feet are resting flat on the floor.
- Drop the left knee to the mat. Move the left foot close to the right hip by passing the left leg underneath the right leg.
- Now, place the right foot beside the outer thigh of the left leg.
- Breathe out as you turn the upper body towards your right. Place your right hand on the mat behind you for support. Place the left elbow above the right knee and push to increase the stretch.
- Elongate the upper body or twist the spine as much as you comfortably can, in rhythm with each inhalation.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Exhale and come back to the starting position slowly. Repeat on the other leg.
Cobra pose or Bhujangasana
- The cobra pose also opens up the chest and engages the shoulder muscles to increase flexibility and strength.
- Lie flat on your belly on a mat.
- Now put your palms on the mat, under the shoulders.
- Press the top of your feet and thighs, as well as your pelvic region down on the mat.
- Inhale and lift your chest off the mat – your torso should still be on the mat and the elbows slightly bent.
- Breathe normally as you hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat two to three times.
Shoulder stand or Sarvangasana
This asana stimulates the thyroid gland, prostate gland and abdominal organs, while improving digestion. People with a cervical issue should not do this asana without an instructor present.
- Lie down on a mat with your arms straight beside you.
- Now, bend the knees and bring them towards your stomach.
- Place your elbows on the mat and use your hands to support your back. Now, gently lift your buttocks and back off the mat, and straighten your legs up in the air. (If this is not possible, get a little momentum going by rocking forward and back. Once your legs are up in the air, adjust the position of the hands if you need to.)
- Now, exhale and lift the body higher by adjusting your hands on the back.
- Try to hold this position for 30 seconds.
- To come back to starting position, gently lower your arms back to the mat and gently bring your shoulders, back and buttocks back on to the mat. Lower your legs back to the mat.
- For a counter-stretch, lie down on the mat. Lift the upper body slightly (place your elbows on the mat to support your weight). Tilt your head back. Place the top of the head on the mat (if you can, take the weight off the elbows now). Hold for up to 30 seconds. Gently lift the head up and come back to the mat.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga
“After practising Sudarshan Kriya, there is a decrease in total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol along with a significant increase in HDL-cholesterol. There are significant changes in pulmonary (lung) function, but statistically non-significant changes in haematological (blood) parameters,” wrote Anjum Sayyed, et al., in “Study of Lipid Profile and Pulmonary Functions in Subjects Participated in Sudarshan Kriya Yoga”.
This yoga is performed in three phases.
- Phase 1 – Ujjayi or victorious breath. The idea here is to feel your breath going in and out of your body. Sit cross-legged on a mat. Touch the tip of the index finger to the thumb and place the backs of your hands on your knees. Now consciously try to constrict the opening in your throat and take long, deep breaths. Your breath sounds should ideally remind you of ocean waves. Try to feel the air going in and out, touching the inner layers of your throat. Breathe slowing, drawing about four breaths per minute. This airway resistance and control over airflow will help you feel calm as well as alert.
- Phase 2 – Bhastrika or bellows breath: Exhale forcefully and inhale rapidly, at the rate of about 30 times in one minute. This causes excitation first and then calmness. At the end of this phase, chant “Om” three times as you breathe out for the longest time possible.
- Phase 3 – Kriya or purifying breath: This phase comprises advanced breathing: first slow, then medium and finally fast. The duration of inhalation in this phase should always be twice that of exhalation. (So if you breathe out for 5 seconds, you must breathe in for 10). This phase is said to clarify the vision and purify the actions.
Always end your yoga practice with the savasana – lie down on a mat with your arms and legs relaxed, palms facing up and eyes closed. Go through a mental checklist of body parts as you try to release the tension from each one of them.
This article was written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on High Cholesterol: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention.