Yoga Linked To Decreases In Heart Rhythm Problems, Anxiety, And Depression

Atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition when the heart’s upper chambers quiver rapidly rather than contracting efficiently, affects about 2.7 million Americans. People with AF are often prescribed beta blockers to control their heart rhythm, but these drugs don’t work in all patients.

This small study investigated if yoga in addition to medication could reduce episodes of AF, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve the quality of life among 49 people with AF.

For the first three months the study participants self-reported AF symptoms and used a heart monitor to objectively track AF occurrences and self-rated quality of life, anxiety, and depression.

They continued tracking these measures for the next three months when attended Iyengar yoga classes at least twice a week. Episodes of symptomatic AF fell from 3.8 after the observation period to 2.1 after the yoga classes ended; episodes of asymptomatic AF (no symptoms but confirmed by the heart monitor) fell as well.

Other significant changes included decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, and depression and significant increases in some aspects of quality of life, such as general health and vitality.

This was a small, proof-of-concept study. Larger, randomized, controlled trials are needed to confirm that yoga is associated with these improvements and to figure out how yoga works to decrease episodes of AF.