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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Increased heart rate variability but no effect on blood pressure from 8 weeks of hatha yoga – a pilot study

Marian E Papp1, Petra Lindfors2, Niklas Storck3 and Per E Wändell1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Family Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Alfred Nobels allé 12, Huddinge, SE-14183, Sweden

2 Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Frescati hagväg 14, Stockholm, SE-106 91, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Physiology, S:t Göran Hospital, Stockholm, SE-112 19, Sweden

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:59  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-59

Published: 11 February 2013



Yoga exercises are known to decrease stress and restore autonomic balance. Yet knowledge about the physiological effects of inversion postures is limited. This study aimed to investigate the effects of inversion postures (head below the heart) on blood pressure (BP) and heart rate variability (HRV).


Twelve healthy women and men took part in an 8-week yoga program (60 min once a week). BP was measured with an automatic Omron mx3 oscillometric monitoring device and HRV with a Holter 24-hour ECG at baseline and 8 weeks after the intervention.


There was no significant effect of inversion postures on BP. Nine out of 12 participants showed a significant increase in HRV (p < 0.05) at night (2 hours) on pNN50% (12.7 ± 12.5 to 18.2 ± 13.3). There were no significant changes in other HRV measures such as NN50, LF, HF, LF/HF ratio, LF normalized units (n.u.), HF n.u. and RMSSD.


Eight weeks of hatha yoga improved HRV significantly which suggests an increased vagal tone and reduced sympathetic activity.

Autonomic balance; Blood pressure; ECG; Heart rate variability; Yoga