Yoga, a holistic practice that focuses on mind-body connection, is beneficial for managing stress, boosting memory and relieving symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis. A new study has found that yoga as a complementary therapy may help heart failure patients improve their quality of life and cardiovascular function.

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a cardiovascular disease when the heart fails to pump properly, leading to fluid buildup, shortness of breath and other complications.

The condition affects around six million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).

To understand the benefits of yoga on patients with heart failure, researchers evaluated 75 people admitted to a healthcare center in the southern part of India. All the participants were in Class III of the NYHA (New York Heart Association) functional classification system, which rates the severity of physical activity limitations, with Class I representing mild limitations and Class IV the most severe.

Out of the total participants, 35 received yoga therapy, along with guideline-directed medical therapy, while the rest received only guideline-directed medical therapy. The therapy group was taught selected techniques like pranayama, meditation and relaxation techniques. They practiced them at least five days a week for 12 months.

During follow-ups, researchers measured the heart health of all participants using the echocardiographic parameters. To measure the changes in quality of life, the team used the World Health Organization's quality of life questionnaire. Participants were asked to fill out the questionnaire at the beginning of the study, at 24 weeks and after 48 weeks of follow-up.

Researchers saw improvements in endurance, strength, balance, symptom stability, quality of life and cardiovascular function in the group that used yoga as a complementary therapy.

"At both the six- and 12-month follow-up improved biventricular systolic function was seen in the interventional (yoga) group compared to the non-interventional group. The interventional group also showed substantial improvement in functional outcomes as assessed by the NYHA classification," researchers said in a news release.

The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology Asia 2023 conference in the Philippines.

"Yoga is a combination of mind-body techniques, which is a set of physical exercises [asana] with breathing techniques [pranayama], relaxation, and meditation that can be effectively used to stimulate physical and mental well-being," said study lead author Ajit Singh, research scientist for the Indian Council for Medical Research at Kasturba Medical College and Hospital. "Our patients observed improvement in systolic blood pressure and heart rate compared to patients who were on medication without yoga."