LifeApps® Digital Media

Yoga doesn’t help heart health

Jun 5th, 2012
Zoë Sophos

Young women practice warrior poseDaily downward dogs may have a special place in the hearts of yogis, but recent studies show that regular yoga practice doesn’t share the love with this vital organ. Two sets of findings presented last week at the annual American College of Sports Medicine meeting in San Francisco concluded that yoga has no impact on heart function or health.

A team of researchers from the University of New South Wales in Kensington, Australia, studied a group of 34 healthy adults who worked in offices. Half were held as a control group, and the other half participated in 50-minute yoga classes three times a week on their lunch breaks, led by an experienced yoga instructor. The classes incorporated postures, flows, breathing exercises and meditations.

After 10 weeks, the participants were evaluated for changes in overall fitness using pushups, side planks and the sit-and-reach test, as well as for changes in heart health using resting heart rate. The researchers found significant improvements in overall flexibility, musculoskeletal fitness and intermittent stress but no change in the healthfulness or ease of heart function.

Another group of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin looked at the effect of Bikram yoga on cholesterol and blood pressure as they relate to heart health. Bikram yoga is a form of heated yoga involving 26 postures practiced for 90-minute periods. Of the 52 participants in this study who practiced Bikram yoga three times a week for eight weeks about half were obese and half were lean.

After the eight-week course, participants were found to have no significant change in body mass, body fat or blood pressure. There was also no lowering of cholesterol levels or the risk factors for diabetes. While Bikram did help with general flexibility and quality of life, its affects on heart health are simply two sizes too small.