Objective: To conduct a systematic review of published literature regarding the effects of yoga, a promising mind-body therapy, on specific anthropometric and physiologic indices of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and on related clinical endpoints.
Methods: We performed a literature search using 4 computerized English and Indian scientific databases. The search was restricted to original studies (1970 to 2004) evaluating the effects of yoga on CVD or indices of CVD risk associated with the insulin resistance syndrome (IRS). Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), nonrandomized controlled trials, uncontrolled (pre and post) clinical trials, and cross-sectional (observational) studies were included if they met specific criteria. Data were extracted regarding study design, setting, population size and characteristics, intervention type and duration, comparison group or condition, outcome assessment, data analysis and presentation, follow-up, and key results, and the quality of each study was evaluated according to specific predetermined criteria.
Results: We identified 70 eligible studies, including 1 observational study, 26 uncontrolled clinical trials, 21 nonrandomized controlled clinical trials, and 22 RCTs. Together, the reported results of these studies indicate beneficial changes overall in several IRS-related indices of CVD risk, including glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, anthropometric characteristics, blood pressure, oxidative stress, coagulation profiles, sympathetic activation, and cardiovagal function, as well as improvement in several clinical endpoints.
Conclusions: Collectively, these studies suggest that yoga may reduce many IRS-related risk factors for CVD, may improve clinical outcomes, and may aid in the management of CVD and other IRS-related conditions. However, the methodologic and other limitations characterizing most of these studies preclude drawing firm conclusions. Additional high quality RCTs are needed to confirm and further elucidate the effects of standardized yoga programs on specific indices of CVD risk and related clinical endpoints.