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Yoga for anxiety and for heart health

August 29, 2020
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Yoga for anxiety and for heart health

Yoga is not a fashion, it is a discipline that, with a sequence of asanas, or yoga poses, benefits both the body and the mind. The muscles stretch, the joints become more mobile and the spine more flexible, the skin increases its elasticity and it's like a real rejuvenation process! Even heart health is protected. But that's not all. In fact, the mind also benefits from yoga, getting rid of obsessive thoughts, staying in the here and now and managing to counteract anxiety and worries. What said has been the subject of very recent studies. A research appeared in the prestigious Jama Psychiatry journal thanks to the work of an American team (Simon et al, JAMA Psychiatry, Aug 2020). Another work was presented a few days ago at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress 2020 by a group of Indian scientists.

In the first study, scientists recruited 226 men and women with anxiety disorder. Participants in the study were divided into three groups, the first group was asked to participate in sessions of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, the second group to yoga classes that included both breathing techniques, or pranayama, and asanas, the third to classes of stress management. After three weeks, both the people who had attended the yoga sessions and the people who had attended the cognitive behavioral psychotherapy courses had a marked improvement in symptoms related to anxiety crises, in particular 54% and 71% of the people respectively. Instead, only 33% of those who had attended stress management courses had managed to improve their anxiety condition.

Therefore, in the short term, yoga proves to be a simple and affordable tool for everyone to effectively combat anxiety. However, in the long run, about 6 months, only the group that had participated in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy showed further improvements.

In the second study, the researchers recruited 538 patients, all with atrial fibrillation, a condition that includes palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue but also anxiety in sufferers. For 12 weeks, the research participants did not practice yoga. For the next 16 weeks, instead, volunteers were asked to participate in yoga classes every other day and to repeat the exercises learned at home as well. All symptoms and episodes of fibrillation were recorded in a diary. At the end of the research, what emerged was that during the 16 weeks of yoga the volunteers showed a generalized improvement in all areas. For example, a sharp reduction in fibrillation episodes from 15 in the period without yoga to 8 in the period with yoga exercises. But blood pressure also improved, reducing by about 11 mmHg.

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