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Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013

 FAQs Natural Therapies: Yoga & A-Fib

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

8. “I do Yoga. It relaxes me and helps with my stress level. Is there any evidence on Yoga helping with other A-Fib symptoms?”

“I wouldn’t have believed until I saw it,” said Dr. Lakkireddy talking about the impact of yoga on his patients. He noticed that a couple of his patients wearing heart-rate monitors became A-Fib free when they were taking yoga classes.

Intrigued, Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of the University of Kansas School of Medicine initiated a study to monitor a group of A-Fib patients, first for three months to assess the frequency of their A-Fib episodes, and their anxiety, depression, and quality of life. Then, in the next stage he switched them to taking yoga classes for three months. (Specifically, Iyengar yoga, which comprises breathing control exercises, yoga postures that are held for 30 to 60 seconds each and meditation/relaxation techniques.)

Yoga Study Results

The results? Yoga reduced their A-Fib episodes and improved their emotional well-being. (Specifically, the number of symptomatic A-Fib events was down, heart beat and blood pressure dropped, depression eased and anxiety decreased.)

Why did this happen? Dr. Lakkireddy suggests yoga helps minimize the extreme fluctuations in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), in this case, of patients with Atrial Fibrillation.

In a video interview, Dr. Lakkireddy  said, “Yoga can actually be a very good intervention here because yoga reduces the number of episodes of A-Fib, so that means it is decreasing the probability of you developing more systemic inflammation. It is also clearly established that doing yoga reduces the overall inflammatory burden on your body.”

Speaking at the 2012 Boston AFib Symposium, he added that though yoga helps, it doesn’t cure A-Fib, “it only makes it less burdensome.”

Benefits for All (Especially the Aging Baby Boomers)

In an editorial on CardioSource.org, Drs Zografos and Katritsis commented on the Lakkireddy study findings. Because this study was small, had no control group, and only a short duration of follow-up, the results are regarded as ‘preliminary’.

But the findings are timely. They observed that, with the growing population of elderly A-Fib patients, the relative safety of yoga training, along with the added benefits of yoga (reduction of anxiety and depression, improved mobility and fall prevention), the findings of the study are all the more pertinent.

Start Yoga Slowly and Gently

Besides the possible benefits for your A-Fib, there are many other health and well-being reasons to consider adding Yoga to your routine (reduced anxiety, depression and blood pressure). If you are considering adding yoga to your treatment plan, talk to your doctor first. Once you have the go-ahead, start slowly and gently.

In an Everydayhealth.com article, Brian Leaf, director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts, and author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, recommends atrial fibrillation patients should begin with these three relaxing yoga poses:

•  Alternate nostril breathing. “This breathing exercise balances the right and left hemispheres of your brain,” Leaf says.
•  Cat lift and round. “This practice gently warms up the spine and nervous system and relaxes the upper back and shoulders,” Leaf says.
•  Downward dog.

As you progress, consider working with a yoga instructor to modify poses to fit your physical limitations and your heart condition.

References for this Article

Last updated: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 

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