The effects of yoga and quiet rest on subjective levels of anxiety and physiological correlates: A 2-way crossover randomized trial

Kembra Albracht-Schulte, Jacalyn Robert-Mccomb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Rest or acute exercise can decrease state anxiety, with some evidence showing exercise to prevent laboratory-induced elevations in anxiety. No study has examined whether yoga provides short-term protection against laboratory-induced anxiety. The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of an acute YogaFit session on state anxiety and measures of heart rate variability (HRV) to determine whether yoga provides short-term protection against emotional picture stimuli. Methods: A randomized repeated-measures crossover clinical trial was performed. Forty healthy, female college students completed a 30 min session of YogaFit and a time-matched seated rest condition on separate days. After each condition, participants viewed 30 min of emotional picture stimuli. State anxiety, heart rate and time-domain and frequency-domain measures of HRV were assessed baseline, post- condition, and post-exposure to emotional stimuli. Data were analysed using a condition x time (2 × 3) repeated-measures ANOVA. Results: Post-hoc comparisons indicate the following: (1) state anxiety significantly decreased from baseline to post-condition for both yoga and rest (p = 0.001) but returned to baseline values following exposure to emotional stimuli (p < 0.001) for both conditions; (2) heart rate decreased post-condition to post-exposure (p = 0.020) and baseline to post-exposure (p = 0.033) for both conditions; (3) time-domain measure of HRV showed a significant increase in HRV between baseline and post-condition (p = 0.019), post-condition and post-exposure (p = 0.007), and between baseline and post-exposure (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Both YogaFit and seated rest were effective at acutely reducing state anxiety post-condition, but not at preventing an induced anxiety response post-exposure. Following exposure to the emotionally stimulating pictures, there was a shift from the high frequency-domain to the low frequency-domain and an increase in the time-domain measure of HRV for both the YogaFit and the quiet rest condition. Trial registration: Retrospectively registered 2/16/2018,, Identifier: NCT03458702.

Original languageEnglish
Article number280
JournalBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 17 2018


  • Affect
  • Autonomic function
  • Emotion
  • Heart rate variability
  • Quiet rest


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