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Authors: Khare, KC, Kawathekar, G. (“Yoga-Mimamsa”, July 2002)

Translated by: Aleksei Papin



The body muscle mass and lipid profile of 20 healthy people (15 men and 5 women, ages 20-60) were studied for 3 months. All the people in the study followed a vegetarian diet during the trial period. The daily yoga practice included asanas, pranayama and meditation for 1 hour and 15 minutes in total. The results demonstrated a significant decrease in total cholesterol ( TC ), low density LDL and very low density lipoproteins ( VLDL ), and at the same time - a significant increase in the level of high density lipoproteins ( HDL ), and the ratio of HDL to TC (total cholesterol). Muscle mass has also increased significantly.



In recent years, coronary heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death, especially among the population with high socioeconomic indicators. Among the causative factors, high blood pressure, an increase in the general level of blood lipid levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and prolonged stress are considered major (Gordon et al., 1977).
*For France: cardiovascular diseases are in 2nd place with 140,000 deaths per year (Centre for epidemiology on medical causes of death, 2008) *translator's note


Atherosclerosis  is the root cause of coronary heart disease. Serum total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) correlated positively, while HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels, on the other hand, showed an inverse correlation with the development of atherosclerosis (Gordon et al., 1977) . Obesity has always been considered a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Obesity also has many other pathophysiological effects on the body, but muscle mass is an important contributor to health.


Yoga is an important component of ancient Indian culture and a healthy lifestyle. As is known, yoga brings many health benefits through its practice (Funderburk, 1977). In this study we will discover how and to what extent yogic practices have a positive impact on the reduction of: total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol levels, and a simultaneous increase in HDL levels.

At the same time, these practices are an effective tool for increasing muscle mass.


The method

The present study was carried out on 20 healthy people (15 men and 5 women) of all ages (from 20 to 60 years old), who practiced yoga regularly for 3 months. The various parameters, such as skinfold thickness, body weight, total serum cholesterol, HDL, LDL and VLDL were measured before and after this three-month study period. All subjects followed a vegetarian diet and were considered to be "in good health" after medical tests.


The following indicators were observed and measured:


  • Weight in kg (without shoes, with standard bathroom scales)

  • Individual height in centimeters (via wall scale, stadiometer type)

  • Skinfold thickness in millimeters (assessed using a clipper. The measurement was taken in the triceps, sub-scapula, and stomach regions)

  • Muscle mass, in grams (calculated by the formula of Edward et al. (1962): muscle mass = total body weight - 0.11 (COP x Height squared  x 10-4) where COP = the sum of the thickness of the skin fold in three places of the body in cm
    Height = height in centimeters


  • Total serum cholesterol (TC) (determined by Lieberman and Burchard test)

  • HDL levels (determined by Virellei et al. (1977) test.

  • Serum triglycerides ( TG ) (measured by the test of Annios (1976))

Thereby:  LDL = TC - HDL - TG / 5

VLDL = TC - (HDL + LDL).


The training consisted of the specially selected yoga practices:

  • Surya Namaskar (10 mins)

  • Asanas: hasta-uthitha-padahastasana, sarvangasana, halasana, paschimottanasana, chakrasana, bhujangasana, vajrasana, shalabhasana, dhanurasana, supta vajrasana, shashankasana, parvatasana, savasana (30 minutes)

  • Nadi-shodhana-pranayama (for 15 minutes)

  • Meditation for 20 minutes.


Statistical analysis

All data has been calculated taking into account the mean and the standard deviation. "T" test was used to determine the value of differences before and after the effects of yoga practice. "P" value of 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


The results

The results of different lipid components, muscle mass, thickness of skin folds in people participating in the experiment before and after the experimental period of yoga practice, are shown in Table 1 and 2, respectively. .


The following conclusions were found:

  • The levels of TC (total cholesterol), LDL and VLDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood of yoga practitioners decreased significantly at the end of the experimental period.

  • The level of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and the ratio of HDL to TC in blood serum, showed an increase at the end of the experimental period in people practicing yoga

  • A decrease in body weight was also observed.

Table 1. Lipid components before and after the period of Yoga practice.

Table 2. Indicators of body weight and skinfold thickness before and after the period of Yoga practice.

The discussion

Obesity is the greatest risk factor for atherosclerosis, especially for coronary heart disease. While obesity has a negative effect on the body, non-fat body mass (muscles and bones), on the contrary, is a well-known beneficial factor for health.


Non-lipid material is defined as follows:
Total body weight - The total body fat weight
(method of Butterworth and Blackburn, 1974).

Most obesity treatment methods are based on reducing caloric intake. It has been shown that when following a low calorie diet, the initial weight loss occurs due to fluid (water) loss. Later, while following the calorie restriction diet, the reduction in body weight is due to the loss of lipids, and by the loss of non-lipid materials (the musculoskeletal tissues of the body).

However, this decrease in body weight produces an undesirable effect on the heart muscle (Frederick et al., 1965). Thus, controlling obesity by only reducing the consumption of calories from food cannot be recommended as a scientifically approved approach.

Physical exercises - such as jogging, running - reduce body fat by increasing calorie expenditure. However, such high intensity exercise is not always recommended for people aged 40+, as it leads to increased heart rate, which can lead to worsening of ischemic heart disease.


Thus, we need to practice the exercises following which:

  • the lipid mass is reduced

  • non-lipid mass increases

  • and the heart rate remains normal

These conditions are met only by static exercises (isometric or isotonic): yoga, chi-gong, classical dance, etc.  


In our study, we found a significant increase in muscle mass and decrease in lipid mass in yoga practitioners.
Our observations are also consistent with many previous studies (Bera, Rajapurkar and Ganguly, 1990; Gharote, 1977; Madhavi et al, 1985).

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