Yoga's ability to calm the inner self might go even further than was previously thought.
Adopting the right positions coupled with meditation not only soothes the spirit, increases a sense of self-control and makes the body more flexible, but might relax the blood vessels as well.
Researchers, who tried to fathom exactly how conquering chronic stress significantly re-duces the risk of disease to the cardiovascular system, now indicate that yoga is good for the cells in the endothelium, the inner lining of the arteries.
The lining is usually quite flexible, going with the flow as it were, but among those with cardiovascular disease or those prone to it, it becomes more rigid, less stretchy and more susceptible to damage.
Dr Satish Sivasankaran studied yoga's effects on 33 people, 10 with cardiovascular disease, while at the Bridgeport hospital, at Yale University's medical school in Connecticut.
The participants, mostly men, with an average age of 55, were measured for blood pressure, body mass, heart rates, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Their artery linings were also checked.
These were all measured again after six weeks of three 90-minute yoga and meditation sessions a week and the results were outlined by Sivasankaran to the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans on Sunday.
There were significant reductions in blood pressure, body mass and pulse rate across the whole group. But those with previous disease also showed big improvements in endothelial function, reported Sivasankaran, now of the Lahey Clinic, in Burlington, Massachusetts.
"This was a pilot study and the apparent benefit merits further inquiry," he said.