In the study, which was published last week in the online Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers monitored 52 atrial fibrillation patients for three months. During this time the patients practiced two 60-minute sessions of yoga a week. The yoga sessions included pranayama, asana, and relaxation exercises.
At the end of the three months, patients showed a significant reduction of atrial fibrillation episodes—both with and without symptoms—compared to a control period when they were not practicing yoga. Atrial fibrillation symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and weakness. The patients also showed lowered blood pressure and heart rates as well as reported feeling less anxious and depressed.
Yoga could be a low-cost way to “complement conventional treatment strategies,” said the study, which is pertinent because of the high prevalence and cost associated with treatment of atrial fibrillation
Of course, it’s hard to determine exactly what part of the experience helped the patients most. “The benefit from the emotionally supportive atmosphere at yoga training centers, and the positive impact by the caring relationships, change in diet and life style modification associated with yoga practice on physiological parameters cannot be underestimated,” wrote researchers.
This was the first study to look at yoga as a means to treat atrial fibrillation. While it showed promising results, it was a small study so more research is necessary.