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The study aimed at determining whether novices to yoga would be able to reduce their heart rate voluntarily and whether the magnitude of reduction would be more after 30 days of yoga training. Two groups (yoga and control, n = 12 each) were assessed on Day 1 and on Day 30. During the intervening 30 days, the yoga group received training in yoga techniques while the control group carried on with their routine. At each assessment the baseline heart rate was recorded for one minute, this was followed by a six-minute period during which participants were asked to attempt to voluntarily reduce their heart rate, using any strategy. Both the baseline heart rate and the lowest heart rate achieved voluntarily during the six-minute period were significantly lower in the yoga group on Day 30 compared to Day 1 by a group average of 10.7 beats per minute (i.e., bpm) and 6.8 bpm, respectively (p < .05, Wilcoxon paired signed ranks test). In contrast, there was no significant change in either the baseline heart rate or the lowest heart rate achieved voluntarily in the control group on Day 30 compared to Day 1. The results suggest that yoga training can enable practitioners to use their own strategies to reduce the heart rate, which has possible therapeutic applications.

A month after the December 2004 tsunami the effect of a 1 week yoga program was evaluated on self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in 47 survivors in the Andaman Islands. Polygraph recordings of the heart rate, breath rate and skin resistance were also made. Among the 47 people, 31 were settlers from the mainland (i.e. India, ML group) and 16 were endogenous people (EP group). There was a significant decrease in self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in both groups, and in the heart and breath rate in the ML group, and in the breath rate alone in the EP group, following yoga (P < 0.05, t-test). This suggests that yoga practice may be useful in the management of stress following a natural disaster in people with widely differing social, cultural and spiritual beliefs.