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Complementary Medicine

FAQs Natural Therapies: Yoga Benefits for A-Fib

 FAQs Natural Therapies: Yoga & A-Fib

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

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, 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 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
• BAFS 2012: Yoga & Stress Reduction in A-Fib presentation by Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy. Summary by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.
• Lakkireddy D, et al. Effect of yoga on arrhythmia burden, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: the YOGA My Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Mar 19;61(11):1177-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.11.060. Epub 2013 Jan 30. PubMed PMID: 23375926. Last accessed Dec 9, 2014. URL:
• Zografos, T., Katritsis, D. Yoga for Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation: An Ancient Solution to an Emerging Problem? August 20, 2013.>
• Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy Video Interview at the Atrial Fibrillation Symposium 2014. By Mellanie True Hills, February 12, 2014 Last accessed Dec 9, 2014. URL:
• Orenstein, BW. The Benefits of Yoga for Afib. 05/30/2013. Last accessed Dec 9, 2014. URL:

Return to FAQ Natural Therapies
Last updated: Monday, June 18, 2018

FAQ: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatment for A-Fib

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

FAQ: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatment

Many A-Fib patients have questions about treatment alternatives such as naturopathic doctors, complementary or integrated medicine as well as mind/body practices (such as chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and meditation).

1. Holistic approach: How do I find a doctor with a more “holistic” approach? I want nutritional counseling and a more integrated approach to my A-Fib treatment plan?

2. Complementary Medicine: I’ve read that yoga and acupuncture are considered ‘Complementary Medicine‘. What is that? How does it relate to conventional medicine?

3.  Naturopathic Medicine: “A dietitian friend referred me to a Naturopathic doctor. What is naturopathic medicine? Are they ‘real’ physicians?”

Related question:Have any readers reported success working with a Naturopathic doctor? Anyone controlling their A-Fib with supplements?”

4. Vagal: What is the ‘vagal maneuver’? I’ve heard it might help me during an A-Fib episode. What is it and how is it done? Is it safe?”

5. Diet: Is a whole food or organic diet helpful for patients with Atrial Fibrillation? Is there any research recommending one or the other?”

6. Chiropractic:  Do A-Fib patients find chiropractic adjustment useful? If so, what are their results? In the past, I’ve found it helpful for other ailments. Could it help with my A-Fib symptoms?”

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

8. Acupuncture: What’s the research on acupuncture and Atrial Fibrillation? I’m willing to try it if it will help ease or reduce my A-Fib episodes.”

9. Natural blood thinners: “Have there been any tests comparing natural blood thinners to the new anticoagulants (NOACs) in terms of efficacy and speed of onset?”

“Most people use non-mainstream approaches along with conventional treatments. The boundaries between complementary and conventional medicine overlap and change with time.” ∼ US National Institutes of Health

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Saturday, February 11, 2017
Return to Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs Natural Therapies: What is Complementary Medicine?

 FAQs Natural Therapies: Complementary Medicine

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

“I’ve read that yoga and acupuncture are considered ‘Complementary Medicine’. What is that? How does it relate to conventional medicine?

The word “complementary” means “in addition to.” “Complementary” medicine generally refers to using a non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine, that is, treatment and medicine that you use in addition to your doctor’s standard care.

[By contrast the term “Alternative” medicine refers to using a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.]

You’ve probably heard of ‘complementary’ treatments and perhaps even used one or more. Common examples are:

♠  Acupuncture
♠  Yoga
♠  Massage therapy
♠  Herbal remedies
♠  Naturopathic medicine

Should You Use Complementary Medicine?

Before you decide to use this type of treatment, think about these questions:

•  Why are you considering this treatment? People often use complementary medicine to treat long-term health problems or to stay healthy. But if you are looking for a “cure-all,” you may be disappointed. Before you begin to use it, make sure that you learn how well it is likely to work.

•  What are you comfortable with? Part of the philosophy of some forms of complementary medicine is to listen to and touch people in a healing way. Some people find great comfort in this. Others may be bothered by it.

What are the Risks?

The greatest risk is that you may use these treatments instead of going to your regular doctor. Complementary medicine should be in addition to treatment from your doctor. Otherwise you may miss important treatment that could save your life.

Always talk to your doctor before you use any new medicines. Some herbs or supplements, for example, an be dangerous when they are combined with a prescription medicine you are taking.

What are the Benefits?

One benefit is that many people who practice complementary medicine take a “whole person,” or holistic, approach to treatment. They may take an hour or more to ask you questions about your lifestyle, habits, and background. This makes many people feel better about the treatment and the person giving the treatment itself. Some people feel more of a sense of control because they are more involved in their own health.

Beware of a practitioner who is critical of your traditional care or suggests ending it. Most ‘complementary’ practitioners also value conventional medicine.

If Considering a Complementary Healthcare Practitioner

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the U.S. Institutes of Health, offers this advice if you are considering going to a complementary health practitioner:

 •  Select a complementary practitioner with the same care you would use in choosing a conventional medical provider.
•  Understand your state and local government’s requirements for licensing and certification of practitioners, and the limitations of those requirements.
•  Do not use an unproven product or practice to replace proven conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
•  Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Some insurance companies cover the costs of complementary treatments, while others may not. Check to see what your plan covers, and refer the NCCAM fact sheet Paying for Complementary Health Approaches.

For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, see NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign.

Return to FAQ Natural Therapies
Last updated: Monday, June 18, 2018

Acupuncture Helps A-Fib: Specific Acupuncture Sites Identified

Acupunture needles 150 pix at 95 res

Acupunture pressure sites for A-Fib

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Hans Larson, in his 2010 October The AFIB Report, states that Italian researchers found acupuncture effective in preventing A-Fib in persistent A-Fib patients who had just undergone successful cardioversion. The acupuncture points used in the Italian clinical trial were:

1. Neiguan (PC-6)

2. Shenmen (HT-7)

3. Xinshu (BL-15)

Acupuncture at the Neiguan and Xinshu points help modulate and stabilize the autonomic nervous system. Stimulation of the Shenmen point has a calming and sedative effect on cardiac excitability. Patients received 10 weekly acupuncture sessions. The article also includes two stories of patients whose A-Fib was eliminated primarily by acupuncture:

Editor’s Comment: As Hans Larson points out, now that we know the exact points to be stimulated, why not use acupuncture for Paroxysmal A-Fib as well?

References for this Article
¤ Larsen, H. The AFIB Report. “Paroxysmal (Lone) Atrial Fibrillation Frequently Asked Questions, Q: Are there different types of LAF?

¤ Lomuscio, A et al. “Efficacy of acupuncture in preventing atrial fibrillation recurrences after electrical cardioversion.” Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, August 30, 2010 (Epub ahead of print) Last accessed Jan 10, 2013 URL:

Updated March 2013

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