Heart Rate Variability improves with yogic breathing

February 7, 2016

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the measure of how well the heart can change beat to beat, creating balance in the nervous system. A healthy heart will speed up on the inhale and slow down on the exhale. It is important for the heart to be able to make these quick changes, to have a high rate of variation between the beats.

Improving your heart rate variability is important to achieving a balance between the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. One of the signs of poor health in the heart is having low HRV because it signals a loss of balance in the cardiac nervous system.

Yogic breathing improves the response of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). When the PNS system dominates, stress is reduced because the activity of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is counterbalanced. The SNS is important for releasing adrenaline, but only when it is really needed! When the nervous system is out of balance or dominated by the SNS our bodies continue to experience an unnecessary level of stress hormones.

Cardiologists suggest that yogic breathing can help improve the cardiac response and improve heart rate variability. Research continues to explore the link between breath work and yoga. The goal can be to combine asanas that increase the heart rate, and yogic breath that keeps the body calm even as the heart rate increases. The ability to exercise the heart and reduce SNS activity is one of the great benefits of using yoga to improve cardiac response.

The practice of pranayama includes several types of yogic breathing techniques. Breath work that encourages deep, regular breathing has the greatest impact on the parasympathetic system helping to improve heart rate variability and creating a sense of calm in the body and mind.