Yoga has long been associated with increased flexibility, strength and muscle tone, but a new study has indicated that it could also have benefits for the heart.
Research conducted in the Netherlands suggests that doing yoga could help to reduce the risk of developing risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In a review of 37 studies, which involves a total of almost 3,000 people, researchers found that regular yoga sessions helped to protect the heart. Yoga was found to be particularly beneficial for those who were unable to do more intensive physical exercise.
Although yoga does not count towards the recommended weekly physical activity quota, experts believe that it does provide health benefits. Aside from strengthening the muscles and improving flexibility, yoga has also been proven to relax the mind and release tension, reducing stress. Stress affects most of us from time to time, but severe stress can really take its toll on physical health and mental wellbeing, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and insomnia, increased susceptibility to illness, anxiety and high blood pressure. Stress can also trigger symptoms in people who have underlying health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Prof Myriam Hunink, lead researcher from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University Medical Center, explained that the aim of the study was to investigate the impact on yoga on the heart and to identify any positive implications on heart health. When compared to a complete lack of physical exercise, yoga was found to provide significant benefits, including a reduced risk of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
In light of the findings, which have been published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, Prof Hunink believes that yoga is “potentially very useful” and could be a beneficial means of reducing heart problems, especially in those who struggle with more vigorous forms of exercise.