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Heart Rate Variability, Flow, Mood and Mental Stress During Yoga Practices in Yoga Practitioners, Non-yoga Practitioners and People with Metabolic Syndrome

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Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia are directly associated with autonomic flexibility, self-regulation and well-being, and inversely associated with physiological stress, psychological stress and pathology. Yoga enhances autonomic activity, mitigates stress and benefits stress-related clinical conditions, yet the relationship between autonomic activity and psychophysiological responses during yoga practices and stressful stimuli has not been widely explored. This experimental study explored the relationship between HRV, mood states and flow experiences in regular yoga practitioners (YP), non-yoga practitioners (NY) and people with metabolic syndrome (MetS), during Mental Arithmetic Stress Test (MAST) and various yoga practices. The study found that the MAST placed a cardio-autonomic burden in all participants with the YP group showing the greatest reactivity and the most rapid recovery, while the MetS group had significantly blunted recovery. The YP group also reported a heightened experience of flow and positive mood states compared to NY and MetS groups as well as having a higher vagal tone during all resting conditions. These results suggest yoga practitioners have a greater homeostatic capacity and autonomic, metabolic and physiological resilience. Further studies are now needed to determine if regular yoga practice may improve autonomic flexibility in non-yoga practitioners and metabolic syndrome patients.

Clinical Trial No ‘ACTRN 2614001075673’

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This article is prepared as a part of Anupama Tyagi’s Ph.D. research at RMIT University. The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of RMIT library for providing articles. The data was conducted at the research laboratory Patanjali Yogapeeth, India. The authors would like to thank the Head of Management of Patanjali Yogpeeth, ‘Achayra Balkrishna’ for granting access to the laboratory. We would thank senior research fellow, N. Singh and all the staff of research foundation of Patanjali Yogpeeth, India and all the participants who contributed their time to the study.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of the article.

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Correspondence to Marc Cohen.

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The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Ethical approval was obtained from necessary sources and written informed consent from the participants was also taken prior to their involvement.

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Tyagi, A., Cohen, M., Reece, J. et al. Heart Rate Variability, Flow, Mood and Mental Stress During Yoga Practices in Yoga Practitioners, Non-yoga Practitioners and People with Metabolic Syndrome. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 41, 381–393 (2016).

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