A recent article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds Yoga to be the most effective lifestyle intervention in preventing cardiovascular disease. Using the Pooled Cohort Equations published by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, 10-year heart disease risk was calculated based on collective results from numerous published studies. Yoga was more effective than smoking cessation group therapy, Mediterranean diet and walking in improving risk factors such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
As cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S., these results are both timely and compelling. Of note is that Hatha yoga and pranayama- and meditation-only practice styles were included in the analysis suggesting that even in the absence of posture practice, positive changes in heart disease risk factors could still be obtained. As mental stress can negatively impact multiple facets of physiological function, perhaps the stress-alleviating properties of yoga practice could be the reason for these beneficial changes.
I have often been asked what research says about yoga in comparison to traditional exercise. Until now, studies have demonstrated some comparable benefits between the two. However, the results from the recent JAHA article are the first to show what some yoga practitioners already believe: yoga is better than traditional exercise. While these results are exciting and impactful, more studies are still needed to compare yoga to various styles of exercise as these results were limited to walking.
More support for the medicinal properties of yoga–Yoga is Medicine!