Manage blood pressure. Control cholesterol. Reduce blood sugar. Get active. Eat better. Lose weight. Stop smoking. There’s a reason the most talked about ways to improve your heart health also make up the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life’s Simple 7® a list of seven lifestyle strategies that can help you lower your risk for heart disease: they work!

But there’s even another great way to protect your heart every day: managing stress. And while there are many ways to accomplish that feat, there’s one in particular that’s been helping people for centuries: yoga. Comprising a series of stretches and poses, coordinated with deep breathing and meditation, yoga is a practice that – according to many national experts, including the AHA – reaps widespread benefits.

· Yoga can lower blood pressure. Yoga’s calming effect is said to produce benefits as soon as people begin practicing, including lowering blood pressure and leaving you feeling more relaxed after a session. In fact, after just 12 weeks, you may see dramatic improvements in your blood pressure and experience a decrease in cholesterol levels.

· Yoga can improve flexibility and exercise performance. After those initial 12 weeks of regular yoga, you may see dramatic improvements in your ability to exercise.

· Yoga helps with healing after heart disease. The aftermath of a serious heart condition can leave someone with high levels of emotional stress. Yoga has been shown to help patients overcome depression and grief and improve energy and mood.

Before you grab your mat and get started, be sure and speak with your provider, especially if you are already living with a heart condition or have previously suffered from heart disease.