"So there is a link there, and I'm not sure that it's been systematically studied and we understand all the details of that relationship. But I think that I would look at yoga as having not only a physical benefit, but if it helps you relax your mind and do other things beyond direct physical benefit, then that will further augment its role in someone with [heart-related] disabilities, such as heart failure."
Khan noted that at least for the heart failure patients involved in the study, the mental benefits of the exercise system were clear.
"There was considerable improvement in their overall ability to do well," he said. "[They had] improved moods and felt better, with not as much depression. ... They slept better, they were more energetic."
Khan admitted that the study was preliminary and that more data would be needed before recommendations could be made. Early next year, he said, he hopes to begin a longer study looking at the benefits of yoga on about 100 patients.
But he noted that the findings, at least for now, are promising.
"The early reports show benefits from action," he said. "We need more patients in a follow-up study, and I would like to do a longer follow-up period -- have them continue therapy and then look at other types of analyses. Not only just blood markers but also some imaging and objective analyses on exercise tolerance and improvement."
"I think there is a definite connection between a patient's mental health and their physical health, which is why yoga might have major benefit for heart failure patients," he said. "It stresses that connection between the mind and the body."