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Yoga Effective Therapy for Heart Patients Finds First Ever Study Published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology

in Featured, Science, YD News, Yoga Therapy

Heart Yoga

Yoga, yoga good for your heart, the more you practice the more you…get smart about your health, of course!

The first ever yoga study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found yoga to be a safe, effective and relatively cheap therapy for improving the lives of heart patients.

The study conducted by The University of Kansas Hospital found that,

“…rigorous practice of yoga can help reduce episodes of irregular heartbeat and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression often associated with atrial fibrillation. On average, yoga was found to cut patients’ episodes of atrial fibrillation in half and significantly improve quality of life.”

Well, hell, everybody can heart pump to that. You know, like fist pump?? Nevermind.

So far, yoga has been found to be helpful for people with heart disease, but until now there hasn’t been a proven complementary therapy to reduce symptoms of arterial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) says lead investigator of the study Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, M.D. at The University of Kansas Hospital.

“The practice of yoga is known to improve many risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, and stress and inflammation in the body,” Lakkireddy said . “There are currently no proven complementary therapies that are known to help decrease the symptoms of atrial fibrillation in a noninvasive fashion with minimal side effects and reasonable safety and efficacy.”

The study involved 49 patients with atrial fibrillation who had no physical limitations. The first three months being the control phase, the participants could do their regular exercise routine, you know probably the usual we all do daily: rock climbing, base jumping, spelunking etc. The next three months each participant took part in a yoga class three times a week involving breathing exercises, yoga postures, meditation and relaxation. They were all yoga newbies who were also given an educational DVD and encouraged to practice at home on a daily basis.

The result?

Data showed the yoga intervention significantly reduced the number of episodes of irregular heart beat among atrial fibrillation patients during the study phase compared to the control phase where subjects were participating in the physical activity of their choice. Yoga also reduced depression and anxiety scores and improved quality of life scores in the areas of physical functioning, general health, vitality, social functioning, and mental health.

Reducing depression and anxiety while improving quality of life? Those are the awesomest side effects we’ve ever heard of.

“These findings are important because many of the current conventional treatment strategies for atrial fibrillation include invasive procedures or medications with undesirable side effects. Success with these therapies varies widely, and they are often only modestly effective in controlling heart rhythm,” Lakkireddy said.

“It appears yoga has a significant impact on helping to regulate patients’ heart beat and improves their overall quality of life. Any intervention that helps in reducing or controlling the arrhythmia burden in atrial fibrillation can have a huge impact on public health.”

Heartwarming news.

In high school we had this friend who used to sweetly (and obnoxiously) encourage us to keep up the pace when running in gym class because, “your heart says thank you!” Ugh. Thank goodness we found yoga, because our heart says thank you and the rest of our body says great jumping Jehoshaphat, for crying out loud, sincerest gratitude! Really, you’re the best, thanks. (No offense to runners, of course. Running is awesome!)


[image via]




11 comments… add one
  • Hell yes!! Yoga is love for the ♥!

  • Keep in mind your friend was encouraging you to keep up the pace in class because of the beneficial improvements in your cardiovascular system-if your suggesting that yoga can replace this it can’t. Be careful not to extrapolate results that relate to symptomatic conditions to general populations, ie the article showed benefits for those with AF, and that was all.

    Sorry if this seems harsh. As an Exercise scientist, and yoga teacher, this is the very sort of misinterpretation I have dedicated my website/blog to correcting.

    I do actually love your page 🙂

    • Henry Wallace

      No need to couch your important caveat within such a velvet glove. We need to stop one-sidedly promoting yoga as the miracle cure to everything from the common cold to brain cancer.

      Fortunately, there are other yoga related sites that are cropping up that take a more yogically balanced approach to what yoga can and cannot do — in tandem with other treatments and mind-body approaches.

      You’re not going to find that yogically balanced approach on a blog that — in the final analysis — is a marketing platform for the yoga industry and its teachers.

      See, for example, http://preventyogainjury.blogspot.com/

      For example, new study questioning whether yoga can help with arthritis, specifically osteoporosis. A small sample study, like all of these studies are.

  • This effect of reducing atrial fibrillation may be due to the influence of the vagus nerve on the heart. There is an interesting theory of how this works in an article citing this part of the parasympathetic nervous system. Streeter CC, Gebarq PL, Saper RB, Ciraulo DA, Brown RP.”Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” Med Hypotheses. 2012 May;78(5):571-9.

    Also Glenn, you’re so right. The heart is complicated, and like other many-splendored things, a lot of different aspects need intelligent attention!

    YogaDork, your the finest and th


  • You’re the finest and the onliest.


  • susan s

    Thank you for this! My dad just had heart surgery in November and I’ve been trying to find ways to get him into yoga- mainly because of the stress relief and sense of calm that he would get from it. But now with this, I have more definitive proof than just “trust me, you’ll feel great!”

  • While it is important for Western science to study and validate yoga and other interventions, it really isn’t necessary to wait for the results to practice it. I ONLY practice yoga and have for the past 20+ years. In combination with a whole foods (non-vegetarian) diet and Ayurveda I have, at 55, become healthier than I’ve ever been. the Western diet and lifestyle, by comparison, caused me to suffer horrific menopausal symptoms (I actually lost my entire yoga practice for several years, had to practice gentler Qi Gong instead) that required me to endure surgery to remove fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts (I refused to get a hysterectomy). Good thing I got my health back with yoga and Ayurveda because I can’t afford medical insurance – my diet and lifestyle ARE my insurance.

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  • There is quite a lot of work going on in researching yoga and its benefits. The first reported clinical trial took place in 1970s and since then the number of clinical trials investigating yoga have increased quite a bit (though it is still quite limited).

    We are organizing an online talk show on April 22nd at 6pm EST in which leading Harvard Researcher Dr. Satbir Khalsa will be discussing the research around ‘Benefits of Yoga for Managing Stress and Lifestyle Diseases’. 50 listeners can dial-in. It will be a very information packes session and will also feature yoga teachers as panelists. More details about registration and talk show dial-in is available below


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