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Effect of yoga on heart rate and blood pressure and its clinical significance

Research paper by Indla Devasena, Pandurang Narhare. International Journal of Biological & Medical Research. 2011;2(3):750-753.


In this 6-month study, investigators observed the effects of a daily yoga practice on heart rate and blood pressure in 50 healthy participants over the age of 40. Data analysis showed significant reduction in heart rate (HR) and highly significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and systolic blood pressure (SBP) after 6 months of yoga.

“Psychological stresses of our modern life precipitate various cardiovascular and other disorders by distorting basic neuroendocrine mechanism,” the authors wrote in the introduction to their article, adding that “[c]hronic exposure to psychosocial stimuli will result in the development of increase in blood pressure, coronary thrombosis and heart failure.”

The 50 participants (20 female, 30 male) had yoga experience prior to entering the study. They were trained for the study by a certified yoga teacher, and instructed to perform yoga for 1 hour daily, beginning at 6 am, for 6 months. The yoga protocol included a variety of asana (standing, sitting, prone, and supine poses) and pranayama. Each session concluded with meditation and savasana. 

Cardiovascular status of each participant was assessed after 2, 4, and 6 months of daily yoga practice. Data analysis showed that resting HR decreased significantly after 2 months of yoga. There was further reduction in HR after 4 months, and more reduction by the end of the study (baseline mean HR 77.8 ±4.8 bpm vs 71.3 ±5.2 bpm at 6 mo). 

Both SBP and DBP were reduced vs baseline at the 2-, 4-, and 6-month assessments. By the 6-month assessment, the reduction was highly significant for both variables (baseline mean SBP 131.4 ±10.2 vs 123.5 ± 9.9 at 6 mo; baseline mean DBP 85.6 ± 6.8 vs 79.6 ±7.3 at 6 mo).

Additionally, participants experienced a statistically significant weight loss at 6 months vs baseline (baseline mean weight 64.1 ± 10.7 kg vs. 62.2 ± 9.9 kg at 6 mo).

Investigators further analyzed the data by comparing measurements from participants <50 years to measurements from participants >50 years of age. Both age subgroups experienced reductions in HR, SBP, and DBP; however, the reductions were greater in <50 group. The different response between the two subgroups was significant for HR and weight, highly significant for DBP, but not statistically significant for SBP.

The investigators concluded that their results “justify the incorporation of yoga as part of our lifestyle in prevention of age-related cardiovascular complications.” They also noted that the difference in response of the <50 and >50 age subgroups  may indicate that beginning a yoga practice at an earlier age, before the onset of age-related cardiovascular changes, may be more beneficial. 

Summary by Louise Fecher

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