How Yoga can Improve Your Resting Heart Rate
It’s not often you go to the cinema and leave in an ambulance. It’s not often that you are thinking about your yoga practice at the same time. That’s what I did last Saturday night. Sweating, nauseous and in a state of shock, I didn’t know what just happened…
It all started with a trip to the local spa in the afternoon, where I had a few ‘innocent’ sessions in the steam room and sauna. I was probably mildly dehydrated, but I drank fluid and rested in between and after. We met late Saturday afternoon to watch a film by the name of ‘The Children Act‘, a gripping drama starring Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci. It came to a scene in the film where there was a ‘forcible’ blood transfusion. I started to feel a sense of anguish, I could feel myself becoming weaker, and then suddenly I…. fainted. Right there. In the cinema.
Susanne, my partner observed that I was in the grip of a seizure, with my eyes widen open and body shaking. She asked if there was a nurse in the cinema, and as I came out of it, there was a lady giving me water. I was taken out of the cinema and sat down outside. An ambulance was called and off we went to the local hospital in London! I was scared. I thought I had epilepsy or some other life-changing ilness and life would never be the same again.
In the back of the ambulance, the friendly paramedic (from Australia!) told me I had low blood pressure. Well, I guess I just was temporarily unconscious, so that makes sense. I’ve never had a problem with blood pressure before. I was also told that I had a really low ‘Resting Heart Rate’ or (RHR). I mean, really low. 60 is about the norm, below that, the ‘sirens’ start sounding, unless of course you are a physically fit – where your heart is more efficient in pumping blood around the body. Mine started at 46 in the ambulance, and dropped to 43 by the time I got to the hospital, when I started to feel more normal again.
My only real exercise routine is a daily yoga practice, combined with weekly dynamic reformer pilates and swimming from time to time. That’s all. No pounding the treadmill or the cross trainer, doing exercises that only burn me out. Oh, I meditate regularly too. So what’s going on?
According to the Harvard Medical Review:
“In certain cases, a lower RHR can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks.”
In particular, in a 2010 study, published by the International Journal of Biological & Medical Research, those who performed yoga regularly over 6 months saw significant benefits in their average heart rate, dropping from 77.8 to 71.3. These practitioners also practised not just physical yoga, but also pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) and meditation. These practices combined (which fall under the general practice of ‘yoga’) can result in improved heart rate and probably lower blood pressure.
So whilst the experience of ‘losing it’ in the cinema was scary (not just for me but for my partner too), it also had a positive side, which reinforced everything I try to do with my health on a daily basis, including my yoga practice.
But, above all, I’m really grateful just for being alive; for myself and my loved ones. Forget the yoga and all that.