Proven: Yoga is good for heart health

It’s proven, yoga is indeed good for your cardio-vascular health. A month of yoga increased good lipids (HDL) and reduced bad ones (LDL) in people who had just coopted the routine in their daily lives, according to a latest study by PGIMER, Chandigarh. Not only that, results showed that one can derive maximum benefit from asanas by age 35.

This is PGIMER’s first study on Common Yoga Protocol (CYP) and has been peer-reviewed. Titled “Yoga as a Preventive Intervention for Cardiovascular Diseases and Associated Comorbidities,” it was published this month in the journal, Frontiers in Public Health.

The open-label single-arm study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of CYP, a Ministry of AYUSH module, which does not belong to any particular yoga school. This is a consensus protocol evolved after the Delphi round of discussions comprising all major schools of yoga in India, inspired by research data. The AYUSH protocol is the Government-recommended yoga protocol for all ages and gender as it is practiced on the International Day of Yoga. This 45-minute module incorporates all aspects of Ashtanga yoga, which provide a generic scaffold for further practices, upgrades or specialisation.

Prof Akshay Anand, in charge, CCRYN Yoga Center PGI, and one of the study’s lead investigators says that the study had examined the effect of CYP on physiological, biochemical and neuro-cognitive parameters. “The potential of CYP can be determined as a cost-effective lifestyle modification to prevent the risk of developing Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD). This study has also attempted to investigate the effect of yogic practices on various age groups and gender and to examine if one month of yoga practice helped to improve the dyslipidemia condition. We have also sought to ascertain whether yoga practice can affect significantly the physiological and biochemical parameters in naive and experienced volunteers,” he explains.

Yoga, which encompasses asanas, breathing techniques and meditation, needs more fundamental research so that it can be integrated into the prevention and management of various lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, Prof Anand feels.

In this trial, the authors compared the effect of CYP at baseline after a month. A total of 374 first-time yoga inductees performed CYP under the supervision of experienced trainers. Physiological markers (body mass index or BMI, blood pressure, oxygen saturation), biochemical indices (fasting blood glucose and lipid profile) and neurocognitive parameters were measured before and after the intervention. Investigators had previously analyzed the angiogenin, VEGF and BDNF molecules that participate in new vessel formation and neuron protection.

Prof Anand says the outcomes show that a month of yogic practice increased the “good lipid” HDL levels and reduced the “bad lipid” LDL levels in first-time yoga practitioners. The results were also correlated with the age of the individual and showed that one can derive maximum benefits from yogic practices at 35 when most of the metabolic alteration occurs in the body.

“Our results have further shown that women are more responsive to yoga. However, our study does not provide a direct link between the protective role of female hormones and yogic practices. Comorbid individuals demonstrated slow recovery from dyslipidemia conditions, which indicates that yogic practices have great potential as preventive medicine for CVD and associated comorbidities. This group had reported earlier that angiogenin levels are also significantly altered in the CYP Yoga-practising group, thus providing a basis for the new findings. Angiogenin contributes to new blood vessel formation, offering neuro-protection in tandem with brain-derived nerve growth factors,” says Prof Anand.

His co-authors Natasha Sayal and Kaushal Sharma add that on day 30 of the yoga practice, serum levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Total Cholesterol (TC), and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) had significantly improved as compared to the baseline levels observed at the time of enrollment. Similarly, the lipid profile obtained from experienced trainers was found to be significantly different from yoga beginners. Comparing the results of healthy yoga debutantes with those of beginners suffering from medical issues, it was found that cholesterol profile improved significantly in the healthy group as compared to the diseased group (hypertension, diabetes, underwent surgery, and CVD).

The study, adds Prof. Anand, was inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Chandigarh when a large number of people lined up to earn coupons to perform yoga for one month at the Capitol Complex. This increased the sample size of yoga debutantes, with the active support of the Chandigarh administration, which scientists from other countries may have found difficult to recruit and analysis. “The research paper was accepted after very stringent international peer review and 25 revisions. Our results show that CYP improved the key metabolic and physiological processes in the yoga intervention group. Healthy yoga-naive participants showed greater improvement than yoga-naive participants with comorbidities. The results from these comparisons indicate that yoga is useful for the maintenance of good health parameters,” says Prof Anand.

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