Question #2: Is mind-body medicine safe?
Not surprisingly, mind-body medicine is safer than the herbs and vitamins mentioned earlier. We know that mind-body therapies such as yoga can lower blood pressure and regulate heart rhythm -- the same thing that medications do, but without the possible side effects.
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As we mentioned before, meditation is a well-documented friend of the heart. Experts agree that this type of mind-body therapy is safe for most people. Because meditation requires deep breathing, safety is usually only an issue for those with lung problems, like emphysema or asthma. In these cases, deep breathing may be painful and in the end, meditation may not be very effective.
While meditation is a part of yoga, the risks of this therapy are slightly greater due to the more physical aspects of this practice. There are several different types of yoga and all can be a risk for those with extreme heart problems, such as heart failure. One type, Bikram yoga, is done in a room that's heated to a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius). Not surprisingly, this type of yoga tends to result in more injuries than the cooler kind -- it's not intended for those with serious heart conditions. The key to safe yoga is starting slowly. If done at the right pace, yoga can be the ideal initial exercise for people who aren't exactly excited about going for a brisk run. To minimize any risk, pick a certified yoga instructor, perform poses in front of a mirror and stop if you feel dizzy (those head stands can do that to the best of us).
OK, we've covered safety and now you're ready to add your chosen alternative therapy to all the other medications you take. Before you mix your medicine, read the answer to the next question.