UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Psychological and physiological contributors to cardiovascular health in regular practitioners of yoga Satin, Jillian Robyn


The evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of yoga is promising, but is limited by a lack of examination of mechanisms and specificity of effects compared to other interventions. To address these weaknesses, the present cross-sectional study comprehensively examined psychological and physiological contributors to cardiovascular health in regular yoga practitioners compared to regular runners and to sedentary individuals. Blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), and high frequency power (HF), a measure of heart rate variability, were measured at rest, and changes in BP and HR were measured in response to two laboratory stressors: an isometric handgrip task and a mental arithmetic task. Potential mediators of group differences on these outcome variables were measured including psychological factors, lifestyle factors, respiration rate, waist circumference, and aerobic fitness. In the present study, yoga practitioners and runners, relative to sedentary individuals, had significantly lower resting HR, higher HF, fewer depressive and anxious symptoms, lower hostility, less incidence of cigarette smoking, and superior aerobic fitness levels. Yoga practitioners had a higher rate of vegetarianism compared to runners and sedentary individuals. Yoga practitioners who reported regularly practicing a breathing technique called Ujjayi had a significantly lower respiration rate compared to runners and sedentary individuals. The lower resting HR in yoga practitioners compared to sedentary individuals was partially mediated by aerobic fitness, and the relatively higher HF power was partially mediated by both aerobic fitness and respiration. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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