The preliminary results of a recent study, the largest ever multi-centre randomised trial on ‘cardiac rehabilitation and health benefits of yoga’, have revealed that yoga is safe, and offers ‘similar’ benefits as cardiac care that is typically prescribed after surgery.
The study was done in 24 centres across India, and about 4000 patients who were discharged following a heart attack, were monitored. The patients were randomized to undergo a structured ‘Yoga Care’ programme that included meditation, breathing exercises and selective heart-friendly yoga poses, apart from lifestyle advice. The control group were just given conventional lifestyle advice.
Cardiac rehabilitation is usually prescribed for patients following a heart attack and cardiac surgery, to get them back to normal activities. The study lasted for five years, and ended in September 2018.
Funded by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the Medical Research Council, UK, the results were presented at the meeting of American Heart Association in Chicago last month.
The prevalence of ischemic heart disease in India has grown by more than 50 percent, from 10 million in 1990 to 24 million in 2016. The trial is the largest so far in yoga and cardiac rehabilitation, and has shown that yoga can be an alternative to conventional cardiac rehabilitation programmes. It also meets the needs of cardiac rehabilitation for patients falling into the low income and middle income brackets.
Patients who attended at least 75% of the sessions received the benefits. The results indicate that yoga is safe, comparatively inexpensive and does not require any elaborate infrastructure. It is culturally acceptable and improves quality of life. In fact, independent doctors say that there is also scientific evidence that suggests yoga as being equivalent to conventional cardiac rehabilitation. According to experts, this trial transcends yoga from belief to science-based intervention.
Most people now go on to survive a heart attack, and hence, they can readjust better after such a catastrophic event and make maximum contributions to the society. This is particularly true in India, where heart attacks are seen occurring at a young age, says Prof. Sanjay Kinra, Head, Epidermiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In recent times, yoga has gained good popularity nationally and internationally as a tool for health promotion, with the United Nations having declared 21st June as International Yoga Day.
Benefits of yoga postures for heart
Cardiac Rehabilitation programs usually combine strength and aerobic exercises with patient education and stress management to improve risk factors and reduce mortality. Such programs can reduce mortality rates by 20% to 25% given their widespread acceptance and adoption to several national, professional management guidelines.
Yoga, on the other hand is the art of relaxing in various postures, while focusing on breathing. This has a positive effect on respiratory system, and hence, affects the heart as well. Yoga is known to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, increase lung capacity, improve heart rate and boost blood circulation. Apart from this, yoga is most effective in dealing with stress, as dealing with stress is vital, particularly, for patients with incidence of heart ailments.
Some beneficial simple yoga postures for good heart health includes Tadasana, Vrikshasana, Hastapadasana, Trikonasana, Veerabhadrasana, Utkatasana, MArjariasana, Adho Mukho Svanasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana, Setubandasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Paschimottasana, Shavasana and Anjali Mudra.
Fast paced lifestyles, irregular sleep schedules, and unhealthy food habits have increased the incidence of heart ailments. Therefore, customized yoga exercises for heart patients are natural and desirable. There are specific yoga asanas for heart problems. So discuss with your doctor and yoga practitioner and choose the safer alternative that does not come with any associated side effects. Practice yoga for a healthy heart and live a healthy, hearty life to the fullest.