Downward dog could have a real benefit for people with irregular heartbeats, according to a small new study.

Researchers from the University of Kansas Hospital and Medical Center found that yoga seems to improve symptoms and quality of life for people with atrial fibrillation. The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart doesn't beat as it's supposed to -- potentially leading to symptoms of weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, chest pains and heart palpitations, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition itself isn't usually fatal, but can lead to complications including stroke and heart failure.

The new study included 52 people with occasional atrial fibrillation (called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, meaning it's not a chronic condition and the heart doesn't always beat abnormally) who underwent standard medical treatment for their heart condition for three months, and then participated in a yoga practice (an hour of yoga twice a week, at least) for the following three months. Forty-nine people completed the study.

Over the whole study period, the study participants were asked to record their symptoms. Researchers also examined depression and anxiety of the participants at the start and end of the study.

Results showed that the number of symptomatic episodes experienced by the study participants was less when they were undergoing the yoga practice, compared with when they were just receiving standard treatment. Plus, they experienced improved quality of life and lower depression and anxiety scores at the end of the yoga practice period, compared with at the beginning of the study.

"Our current results constitute the first evidence that yoga is effective as a complementary therapy for the alleviation of AF [atrial fibrillation] burden and consequences," the researchers wrote in the study.

For more ways yoga can help the heart, click over to HuffPost blogger Elaine Gavalas's piece here.

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