Fact or Myth: Does Yoga Protect Against Heart Disease?

This is a FACT…

Yoga is an ancient Indian mind-body practice that combines the physical with the mental and spiritual to strengthen the body and the mind and reduce stress. Over the last few decades it has spread globally and taken the Western world by storm. Yoga definitely has something for everyone, as there are countless styles to choose from—from vigorous Ashtanga flows to more meditative Integral yoga practices. But how does yoga compare to more traditional workouts, like bicycling or brisk walking? And does yoga protect against heart disease?

According to a 2014 meta-analysis of 37 randomized controlled studies made up of 2,768 people and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga offers the same protective benefits against heart disease as more traditional forms of exercise do.

Yoga poses series. Tree Pose. Vrikshasana.Yoga Improves Heart Disease Risk Factors

Researchers from the United States and the Netherlands measured yoga’s effect on heart disease against the effect of traditional exercise and the effect of no exercise on heart disease. Their systematic review turned up some interesting findings.

While no exercise had zero consequence on lowering heart disease risk, yoga improved the following markers:

  • A reduction in body mass index (BMI) of 0.77 kg/m2
  • A reduction in systolic blood pressure of 5.21 mm Hg
  • A reduction in diastolic blood pressure of 4.9 mm Hg
  • A reduction in LDL cholesterol of 12.14 mg/dl
  • An increase in HDL cholesterol of 3.20 mg/dl
  • A reduction in total cholesterol of 18.48 mg/dl
  • A reduction in body weight of just over 5 pounds
  • A reduction in heart rates of 5.27 beats per minute

Patients already diagnosed with coronary artery disease showed dramatic improvement in cholesterol levels when a yoga practice was implemented alongside a regimen of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

How Does Yoga Protect Against Heart Disease Compared to Traditional Forms of Exercise?

Very well! Researchers noted that yoga offers a cardioprotective benefit on par with brisk walking and bicycling, and is an excellent alternative for those who can’t engage in traditional forms of exercise.

Researchers also noted that the mechanism behind this effect is still unclear, but could be linked to yoga’s ability to lower stress levels, “leading to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status, metabolic and cardio-vagal function.”

All you need is a mat and your own body weight to start practicing yoga today, and to begin enjoying its heart-healthy benefits.