Veronica Zador on:
Yoga Therapy for Heart Health
by Darla Nagel
Veronica Zador, certified yoga therapist and experienced registered yoga teacher, established and directs International Institute of Yoga Therapy, Michigan’s first fully accredited yoga therapy program. Zador has more than 30 years of experience in the field, has published over 30 articles on yoga teaching and yoga therapy and has previously led the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance. Unlike studio-based classes led by a yoga teacher, yoga therapy helps people self-activate well-being through effective and adaptive breathing, meditation and, only when appropriate for the treatment plan, physical movements in one-on-one or in small group clinical settings. Yoga therapist training follows an academic model with clinical experiences and exposure to peer-reviewed research.
What are the benefits of yoga therapy for heart health?
Research indicates that the prevalence of stress and anxiety are important ingredients that can contribute to challenges in our heart functioning. Yoga therapy offers us a way of self-managing the effects of how we respond to stress and the exhaustion of anxiety. Yoga therapy emphasizes self-management in attending to how we move, how we breathe and even how we think. Studies have shown that yoga therapy can help people lower their heart rate, that blood pressure can be improved, that our circulatory system can respond more efficiently and that our breathing can become more efficient.
Studies have also shown that working with a yoga therapist in a one-on-one environment enables a person to reverse agitation and self-manage anxiety that can result from the way we respond to stimuli like the news, our public health responses to COVID and the compromises we make to try and stay safe. Having an ongoing, affordable way to modify and manage our responses to stress, fear, pain and anxiety can help improve our heart health and, indeed, our overall mental and physical health and recovery.
How else can yoga therapy help?
A review of findings published by Harvard Medical School found that yoga therapy techniques that focus on the qualities of strength, stability, composure and restfulness can positively reverse cardiovascular risks.
How can breathwork improve heart health?
Studies have shown that when we attend to our breathing, using appropriately instructed breathing techniques, irregular heart rates can stabilize. And, since the heart can respond to breathing efficiency quickly, we have a way to implement heart-friendly breathing techniques as often as we like, for free.
What is the heart-mind connection in health?
The Chinese word xin means both mind and heart. The Bhagavad Gita, a traditional text, describes the heart center as a sacred “self.” Fast-forward to our communities, our cultural backgrounds and our partnerships with healthcare systems, and we see how the research and evidence support a health link between the heart and the mind.
What are first steps to take for better heart health?
It is always recommended that you check with your healthcare team or healthcare specialist and seek advice or consulting regarding health care and referrals. Ask your health management team about yoga therapy and about how a yoga therapist might be a part of health and heart care. There is strong research indicating that when we are better able to regulate and manage how we respond to the pressures of stress, anxiety, fear and pain, we can help our heart. Yoga therapy, as part of the multimodal systems of health and healing, is based on attending to the way we move, the way we breathe and the way we think.
For more information about yoga therapy or the International Institute of Yoga Therapy, call Veronica Zador at 248-840-9444, email
Darla Nagel is a Michigan-based editor/writer for Natural Awakenings.