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Improve Your Cardiovascular Health With these 4 Heart-Healthy Stretches

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Behind every machine lies intricate mechanics and an engine to power it - your body is no different! It functions on account of many systems, all driven by your heart. Your heart pumps blood, and in doing so delivers needed oxygen and nutrients to the body. It also makes it possible for the circulatory system to maintain a proper fluid balance, regulate body temperature, and protect you against infection. So, in short: a happy heart = happy you!

In addition to consuming heart healthy foods, improve your cardiovascular health with stretching! It leaves you feeling invigorated and energized, but also offers numerous benefits:

Decreased Stress
Decreased stress means decreased cortisol levels. Cortisol, a stress hormone, can cause your blood vessels to constrict. This leads to plaque buildup and high blood pressure, and increases your risk of heart attacks.

Increased Blood Flow
More blood flow means more nutrients and oxygen to your tissues and organs (like your heart), and a lower risk of heart disease. Good blood flow also means you’re able to perform your best mentally and physically.

Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is very demanding on your heart and blood vessels. It is like blowing up a balloon and then squeezing it... and too much stress may cause that balloon to pop.

It only takes a few minutes each day to reap the rewards of stretching. So bust out your yoga mat and try these four heart-healthy poses to improve circulation, increase blood flow, and bump up your energy.

HEART-HEALTHY STRETCHES

1.) Camel Pose
This pose strengthens your back, gluts, and hamstrings while opening your shoulders, chest, and core. Start by sitting on your heels in a kneeling position. Grab your right foot with your right hand and left foot with your left hand. Slowly squeeze your gluts and push your hips forward and upward as if someone were pulling your navel by a string. Keep holding your feet while you relax your shoulders so your arms hang free. Take your time to look backward and hold this position.

2.) Twisting Lunge
This move takes a bit of flexibility, but can be done with modifications until you are ready for the ultimate stretch. Come to a downward dog so that your hands and feet are on the floor with your hips forming the apex of a triangle. Step your right foot to the outside of your right hand and sink into a deep lunge. If possible, lower to your forearms for a deeper stretch. Open your chest while raising your right hand to the sky. This twisting motion should feel great on your spine and work well to open your chest. Repeat on your other side.

3.) Cross-Legged Opener
Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position on the floor. Place your hands on your knees and pull towards your body, drawing your shoulders backward and downward while pushing your chest forward. This isometric move will strengthen your back and open your chest, allowing for deeper breathing.

4.) Cobra Pose
Lie face down on your yoga mat or a comfortable surface. Position your hands next to your chest with your palms on the floor. Tuck your elbows in next to your body. Gaze forward and use your triceps and lower back to push your chest off the floor while keeping your lower body grounded. Push your arms only as straight as comfortable. Round your shoulders away from your ears. You’ll feel this stretch in your chest and abdomen. 

Hold each pose for five breaths or whatever feels good to your body. Your breaths should be long and deep. You’ll feel the oxygen circulating your blood and detoxifying your body. Notice your heart rate slow down and your worries slip away. With time, you’ll feel less stressed, more alert, and energized. These stretches are perfect for waking you up, winding you down, or giving you a much-needed break. No matter when you choose to set aside a few minutes during your day, your heart will thank you.