If you are someone who has remained skeptical about yoga and meditation during their past decade of soaring popularity, you might want to reconsider your position because the medical community, and not just yoga practitioners and the philosophical minded, have started to confirm its health benefits. Several studies in the past year have explored the ways in which yoga and meditation can be a boon to your heart, regardless of whether you are someone with a healthy ticker or someone with a cardiovascular condition, such as Chronic Heart Failure or diabetes.
In one small New York-based study, 19 patients with Chronic Heart Failure (CHF) were randomly placed into one of two groups—a yoga treatment group or a standard medical therapy group—for an 8-week period. At the end of the trial, all participants completed The Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire (MLHFQ). The overall MLHFQ scores of patients in the yoga group improved by nearly 26% while those of the other group increased by less than 3%.
Moreover, the study found that the yoga participants experienced an increase in exercise tolerance and expressed a greater ease with doing daily activities as well as a psychological benefit. Most significantly, those who received yoga treatment exhibited significant reductions in serum levels of IL-6 and CRP, two common inflammatory markers in patients with CHF. Ongoing high levels of C-Reactive Protein or CRP, for example, may indicate an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, sudden cardiac death, or even the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Another recent study has boasted the heart health benefits of yoga for pregnant women. This study, set in Bangalore, India, placed 45 women ages 20-35 and in the 18th to 20th week of a “normal” pregnancy in yoga therapy for one hour daily for the duration of their pregnancy; another comparable group of 45 women completed only standard prenatal exercises.