Those sun salutations and downward dogs could be as good for the heart as cycling or brisk walking, and easier to tolerate for older people and those with health challenges, according to a new review of existing research.
Based on 37 clinical trials, researchers found that doing yoga lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors in increments comparable to those seen with aerobic exercise.
“Taken together, these improvements could facilitate and complement a regimen toward better cardiovascular health,” said Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.
She and her co-authors caution in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, however, that larger studies are needed to understand how yoga improves health, how much of it is ideal and if there are differences in benefits from various types of yoga before the practice becomes a standard prescription for heart disease.
Nonetheless, yoga’s benefits have been long suspected, said Dr. Larry Phillips, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
“I think what we’ve seen is with yoga and the relaxation and behavior modification that goes along with it, there is a benefit to all patients, but especially those with heart disease,” said Phillips, who was not involved in the new analysis.
“Here we are able to see there are more measurable benefits than we’ve seen before,” he told Reuters Health.
Yoga originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, and has become a popular mind-body therapy in the West. Yoga’s breath control and body postures are believed to help nourish self-awareness, control stress and develop physical strength and balance.
The more traditional Hatha style of yoga is the most widely practiced in the U.S. But many specialized yoga “products,” such as hot yoga, power yoga and yoga retreats are part of a billion-dollar yoga industry.
One study estimates that 15 million Americans have practiced yoga at least once, according to Chu and her co-authors. Continue reading >>