When you think of the benefits of yoga, you mostly think of the mind: stress-relief and heightened self-awareness. You think of its effect on the body, too, like increased flexibility and better posture. But have you ever considered how yoga affects your internal body? Well, a new study published European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that it protects your heart, so you probably should.
The researchers did a review of 37 earlier studies that included nearly 2,800 people. The participants were randomly assigned to do yoga or "regular" exercise like biking and walking, and those in a control group were not asked to add anything to their usual routine. The participants' yoga practices ranged from three to 52 weeks, averaging around 12.
Compared with no exercise, yoga had significant benefits — it was linked to lower heart risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Perhaps the most interesting finding, though, was that yoga and aerobic exercise had the same degree of effect on the same measures of heart risk.
And while yoga does not count towards the recommended physical activity that we should all do each week, it clearly still makes an impact.
"These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice," said study author Myriam Hunink in a press release.
While it's still not entirely clear why yoga might be beneficial, it seems like a classic case of mind-body connection. Experts say it could be due to its calming effect — and stress has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.
We are very excited by these results, and apparently so are the authors of the study. They said yoga might offer a relatively cost-effective way to help people improve heart and metabolic health. Plus, it's easy to practice at home with little or no equipment.
Just another reason to get to the mat, in case stretching and meditating and taking time for yourself weren't quite enough.