A review in the Netherlands of 37 studies involving almost 3000 people has found that yoga is directly linked to lowering risk factors of heart disease – particularly high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Although it does not count towards the weekly-recommended levels of physical activity, one expert was keen to demonstrate just how beneficial yoga can be for maintaining good health and well-being.
Professor Myriam Hunink, from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, was particularly interested in finding out whether yoga had an effect on heart health.
He published the results of his findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, and overall he found that compared with no exercise, yoga had significant benefits.
Furthermore, when pitched against other types of physical activity such as jogging or brisk walking, there were no major differences between the activities (based on the same measures of heart risk).
Prof Hunink said: “These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice.”
Yoga is an ancient practice that focuses on breathing, strength and flexibility to enhance both the mind and body. It is becoming increasingly popular and there are many different variations today – including Bikram and Tantric.
Although some can be strenuous, most forms of yoga do not count towards the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity the government recommends each week.
This study however suggests the physical benefits of the activity are just as important as the emotional ones.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The benefits could be due to working the muscles and breathing, which can bring more oxygen into the body, leading to lower blood pressure.
“A larger study is recommended though to assess the effects of yoga more fully.”