KU Study Investigates Yoga as Treatment for Heart Condition

If you have ever used yoga to calm a racing mind or deep yogic breathing to tame a frenzied situation, the intention of a new study underway investigating the connection between heart disease and this ancient mind-body practice won’t surprise you.

Yoga My Heart is a study coordinated by the University of Kansas Hospital to show how yoga may affect atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that affects 2.2 million Americans. Usually triggered in response to a stress-provoking situation, atrial fibrillation causes chest pains, dizziness, palpitations, fatigue and shortness of breath. Those with the condition may frequently require medication and invasive treatment.

The study’s lead investigator, Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, sees the calming effects of yoga as a possible formidable medication-free treatment option for those who suffer from it.

“Yoga is unique in that it affects heart rhythm through its significant influence on the central and autonomic nervous systems. Atrial fibrillation is one of those arrhythmias that is critically dependent on the communication between the heart and the brain,” says Dr. Lakkireddy.

Dr. Lakkireddy is living proof of the beneficial effects of yoga. The doctor was born and raised in India and his grandfather was a yoga instructor. Yoga My Heart is therefore an extension of his respect for this practice as well as a continuation of his family’s lineage.

The study, which began in January 2009, has participants attended weekly yoga sessions in addition to rolling out their mats at home to downward dog to a yoga DVD or video. A second group and a third group entered the study in August and December 2009, respectively. Throughout the study, participants are monitored for recurrences of atrial fibrillation. Once all of the data has been collected, it will be evaluated for improvements in baseline markers and in basic functioning of daily activities.

So far the results have been inspiring with participants not just loving this ancient practice, but also experiencing significant improvements in their mobility and energy.

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