How Yoga and Meditation Can Help Relieve Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is common in clinical practice. It increases the risk of stroke sixfold and early death by two times in women and 1.5 times in men.

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF) is also termed intermittent atrial fibrillation. It is defined as an episode of atrial fibrillation that ends spontaneously or with intervention in less than seven days. PAF may be associated with risks of stroke and thromboembolism.

Other types of atrial fibrillation are:

a) Persistent or longstanding persistent
b) Permanent

In many integrative medicine centres, Complementary and Alternative Medicine therapies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Nutritional Medicine and Yoga Therapy are sometimes used as part of the treatment regime for PAF.

Yoga research study

Yoga and meditation have grown in popularity in recent years. Yoga was first described in the yoga sutra by Patanjali thousands of years ago. Today it is widely recognised as a form of mind-body medicine that integrates the individual’s physical, mental and spiritual components and is a popular therapy in many Integrative medicine centres.

A 2016 Complementary and Alternative Medicine study randomised pilot study was conducted at Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm, recently investigated to see if yoga can help patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. They measured the following:

• Quality of Life
• Blood pressure
• Heart rate

In this study 80 patients diagnosed with PAF were randomised to standard treatment or standard treatment in combination with yoga and meditation therapy during a 12-week period. In this study, Kundalini yoga and meditation therapy were used.

This Kundalini yoga therapy program was specifically designed for people with cardiac diseases and took place in a physiotherapy clinic. The one-hour yoga program included stretching the chest muscles that facilitated deep breathing that resulted in relaxation of the body. Each session commenced with 5–10 minutes of deep breathing followed by three movements of back flex, back roll and Sat Kriya that included two breathing techniques. This was then followed by 10-minute meditation and 10-minute relaxation. The yoga therapy was performed under the instruction of an experienced yoga instructor.

Kundalini Yoga does reduce symptoms of PAF

One of the most important treatment goals in atrial fibrillation is to reduce symptoms and improve ‘Quality of Life’ and this yoga and meditation program achieved this goal. The researchers found that the patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation who took part in the Kundalini yoga sessions had:

• Reduced Systolic blood pressure
• Reduced Diastolic blood pressure
• Decreased Heart rate

This Complementary and Alternative Medicine pilot study is further evidence that a yoga and meditation therapy program is a viable integrative medicine therapy for treating Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.