Doing Yoga Can Lower Cholesterol

Healthcare providers don't routinely recommend yoga for high-cholesterol treatment—but someday they may. Studies have shown that practicing yoga can have many health benefits, such as aiding in the management of insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and osteoarthritis. Recently, some clinical studies have suggested that yoga can also help reduce your levels of cholesterol (and another blood fat, triglycerides).

A woman stretching in a yoga class
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What Yoga Is

Yoga is an ancient mind-body discipline that originated in Central Asia. A combination of breathing exercises, various body postures, and meditation (taking time for quiet thought), yoga has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions. There are many forms of yoga, ranging from meditative exercises to stretching. Presently, yoga is most commonly used as a form of meditation and low-impact exercise.

How Yoga Affects Cholesterol Levels

Only a handful of clinical studies have evaluated the effectiveness of practicing yoga on lipid (blood fat) levels, but the results appear to be promising. In some study participants, total cholesterol levels were reduced by up to 30%. Levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), or "bad" cholesterol, were lowered between 14% and 35% in these studies.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of yoga on raising levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), or "good" cholesterol," as well as triglycerides, appears to vary. In some studies, triglyceride levels were lowered by up to 11% and HDL levels were increased by up to 12%. But in other studies, yoga did not appear to affect participants' HDL and triglyceride levels.

The length of these studies varied widely, between two months and five years, as did the types of yoga the study participants practiced. These included Sudarshan Kriya, which incorporates rhythmic breathing exercises, and Hatha Yoga, which emphasizes gentle stretching and meditation. The time spent doing these exercises ranged from 30 minutes to three hours, up to three times a week.

How It Helps

The way yoga works to lower your levels of these blood fats is unknown. Theories of how this happens to include:

  • Yoga is effective in stress reduction. Reducing stress may help you reduce risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol.
  • In some of the studies, performing yoga for high cholesterol also caused a modest reduction in weight. Losing weight can lower blood-fat levels, so the weight loss in study participants practicing yoga may have lowered their cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well.

Determining If Trying Yoga Is Right for You

First, consider whether yoga is a healthy exercise for you. Yoga is considered a form of low-impact exercise, but it's still best to check with your healthcare provider before incorporating it into your cholesterol-lowering plan. This is particularly important if you have a health condition that may limit your mobility or if you haven’t been exercising regularly.

Despite the limited number of studies that have been conducted, yoga for high cholesterol looks promising. In fact, yoga may help in controlling other diseases and conditions as well. Any form of movement counts when it comes to controlling your cholesterol, so if it's appropriate for you, yoga can be an effective part of your exercise regimen.

If you're interested in learning more about yoga and ways to include it in your exercise routine, you can, take a class at a local college or yoga school, check your health club or YMCA, or use a DVD, MP3 player, or other devices at home.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Shantakumari N, Sequeira S, El deeb R. Effects of a yoga intervention on lipid profiles of diabetes patients with dyslipidemiaIndian Heart J. 2013;65(2):127–131. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2013.02.010

  3. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of lifeInt J Yoga. 2011;4(2):49–54. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.85485

  4. Sharma S. Bad cholesterol: say good-bye to it with Iyengar Yoga. Medium [internet]. 2019.

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.