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Yoga: An Old Discipline With a New Indication for Reducing Cardiac Arrhythmias

9 August 2014


Background: Cardiac arrhythmias are any abnormality or disruption of the normal activation sequence of the myocardium in the heart. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with increased mortality and morbidity. Patients with cardiac arrhythmias have a decreased quality of life (QoL) and an increased psychosocial burden. Yoga has demonstrated to be an effective tool in reducing blood pressure in patients with hypertension, reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and increasing QoL. Yoga as a treatment for patients with cardiac arrhythmias has yet to be investigated fully. Will yoga decrease the amount of cardiac arrhythmias in arrhythmia-prone individuals?

Methods: An exhaustive search of available medical literature was performed using Medline-OVID, CINAHL, PubMed, and Web of Science using the keywords: “yoga”, “arrhythmias, cardiac.” A search of the National Institute of Health (NIH) clinical trials website showed one related clinical trial currently recruiting.

Results: Two studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the systematic review. The first study is an observational pre-post cohort study that examined the impact of a structured 3-month yoga program on AF. Fifty two patients were enrolled and results showed dramatic decreases in the frequency of AF while in the yoga program compared to the control period. The second study is a retrospective observational cohort study to determine the effects of Pranayama, a type of yoga breathing exercise, on the QT dispersion (QTd) in patients with arrhythmias. Fifteen patients were enrolled in the analysis and results demonstrate a statistically significant decrease in the QTd as captured on electrocardiogram (ECG) over the course of the 12-week yoga-breathing program.

Conclusion: Yoga is a successful complementary and alternative treatment for cardiac arrhythmias. It can help lower blood pressure, stress, anxiety and depression that may trigger episodes of AF or other cardiac arrhythmias. The cost of yoga is much less than medications and has little to no adverse effects. Although clinical trials are needed to give more support to the evidence presented in these studies, Yoga should be implemented in therapy strategies for patients with cardiac arrhythmias.


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