If your doctor warns that your triglyceride levels are high, take notice. This marker often indicates that you're at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. While it's not clear that the triglycerides themselves are the cause of illness, they usually go hand-in-hand with other issues that also raise your risk, including low levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL), obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and elevated blood sugar.
Health care professionals often recommend exercise as one strategy to help lower triglycerides and other risk factors of heart disease. While you might think cardio, such as jogging or cycling, is your only option, consider yoga.
Yoga has a comprehensive effect on your well-being. You ease a stressed mind and inflexible body with mindful breathing, meditation and movement. Some practices of yoga even raise your heart rate enough to count as moderate physical activity and include enough strong standing and pushing poses to be considered resistance work. A review of the health benefits of yoga published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine in 2014 noted that the practice of yoga is beneficial to all dimensions of health, including your lipid measurements.
Research suggests that yoga does potentially contribute to reduced triglycerides, if committed to on a regular basis. Results of the small number of studies that have been performed are promising, but not conclusive. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed in a comprehensive analysis of existing studies published in 2014 that the practice of yoga poses, or asanas, positively affects triglyceride levels, as well as diastolic blood pressure and HDL cholesterol (the good kind.)
A specific study in a 2012 issue of the Indian Heart Journal showed that 100 diabetic patients who practiced asanas for one hour daily for 3 months experienced a decrease in total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (the bad cholesterol), with an improvement in HDL.
Another piece of research, published in a 2015 issue of PLoS One, showed that 12 weeks of regular yoga practice helped improve risk factors for metabolic syndrome in 173 people — half were assigned yoga, half were not. The yoga practitioners experienced improvements in their triglyceride levels, as well as their fasting glucose levels and waist size.
Why Yoga May Be Effective
High triglycerides usually come about due to lifestyle factors, including inactivity, poor dietary choices and stress. Yoga definitely helps combat the inactivity — getting up and moving your body in a regular practice can be a big step for a sedentary person.
Yoga may also indirectly affect the other lifestyle factors. When you practice yoga, you likely become more mindful, and that includes of the things you're putting into your body. As you're better able to deal with stress by breathing and changing your patterns of thinking, you might be less likely to stress eat and drink alcohol to soothe. Yoga is also associated with healthier eating habits, given that choosing a cheeseburger and fries before you hit a rigorous flow of asanas does not feel good or benefit your practice.
Participants in the 2015 PLoS One study reported greater feelings of health and were more inclined to be social as a result of their participation in yoga. These positive outcomes could play a role in reducing stress and improving lipid scores, too.