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Is Yoga Good for High Blood Pressure?
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have issued new guidelines that lowered the upper limit for blood pressure. Yoga has an exceptionally positive influence on blood pressure because it reduces the stress response due to an increase in self-regulation.
According to the new guidelines, blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg is healthy. Stage 1 hypertension is when the systolic blood pressure is 130 to 139, and the diastolic pressure is 80 to 89, or both.
We must make sure that our high blood pressure stays within an acceptable range. If not, the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or unexpected death, increases.
High blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. It is so dangerous to our health and well-being that it has been called “the silent killer”.
It can affect the blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys. People who have stubborn high blood pressure often have trouble with their memory, normal thinking, and learning.
The medical field says that in some cases, we can have blood pressure in the normal range without medication. We must make basic lifestyle changes such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising more, and practicing stress reduction techniques like yogic relaxation and meditation.
Be Physically Active by Doing Yoga
Yoga helps in balancing blood pressure over time. When we do yoga, we work the muscles of the body, which is helpful for the blood pressure levels in our body.
When we move in and out of poses, we contract and relax the muscles through which the blood vessels pass.
The muscles support a healthy function of the cardiovascular system, which helps the veins take blood back to the heart from all our body parts.
Physical movements keep the blood vessels healthy over time by preventing a hardening of blood vessels, which is a side effect of untreated high blood pressure.
Heart and Lungs
Yoga practice has a positive effect on the heart and lungs by moving through a series of poses that stretch and open the front chest, the back chest, and the sides of the chest. By releasing muscle tension, yoga movements let us use our body organs in a sensible way.
Active stretching and improved flexibility of the large skeletal muscle groups take some of the tension off the blood vessels that pass through them. An improved circulation outside of the heart ensues.
The Health of the Heart
An active yoga practice increases the workload of the heart muscle, exercises it and keeps it strong.
Regular yoga practice has been shown to increase our overall self-awareness of what is going on with us.
Adapt Your Yoga Practice
Yoga teachers adapt the poses when required, no matter what our state of health.
According to Dr. Bell Baxter, "When it comes to practicing yoga to regulate blood pressure, it's not one size fits all". A qualified yoga teacher can adjust the yoga session to fit the health state and/or condition of a person.
You can find yoga teachers or yoga therapists who specialize in teaching yoga to individuals who have high blood pressure and who cannot lie down on the floor. They modify poses and use props to make a pose accessible to suit individual needs and conditions.
Yoga affects blood pressure with stress management methods that help to improve self-regulation.
Yoga has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system. This may improve the responsiveness of the autonomic nervous system to changing situations.
Pranayama/Breathing Techniques and Meditation
Active yoga poses and calming practices like pranayama and meditation have a positive influence on our entire system, helping us control our blood pressure.
Some breathing techniques can have a calming influence on those who have high blood pressure, which helps in bringing the blood pressure to acceptable levels.
Meditation influences blood pressure and can be self-directed. Choose a focus for your meditation and go for it.
Yoga practices such as chanting or focusing on a sound for meditation calm the nervous and the cardiovascular systems. Chanting can extend our exhalation, which can be useful in lowering the heart rate and blood pressure.
Three Stress-Relief Approaches
When you have one minute:
- Put your hand under your navel to feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.
- Breathe in, pause for a count of three, then breathe out and pause for a count of three.
- Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.
When you have three minutes:
- Sit down and take a break from whatever you are doing.
- Start by scanning your body for tension.
- Relax your facial muscles and let your jaw fall open slightly.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Let your arms fall to your sides.
- Loosen your hands by creating space between your fingers.
- Uncross your legs or ankles.
- Feel your thighs sink into the chair, let your legs fall comfortably apart.
- Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grounded in the floor.
- Breathe in and out slowly. Each time you breathe out, relax a little more.
When you have ten minutes:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet room.
- Breathe deeply and evenly for a few minutes.
- Imagine that you are in a place that is special for you. Bring good memories to your mind: a delightful smell, a lovely sound, gorgeous colors and shapes, the feeling of a gentle breath on your face, soft grass delighting your feet. Focus on sensory pleasures.
- Observe unpleasant thoughts that intrude; gently free yourself from them, and come back to the word you have created.
Reading Your Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure gives your doctor a glimpse of how your circulatory system works. A high blood pressure number means your heart is working harder than usual to pump blood through your body. This added work can thicken the heart muscle, which could cause potential heart, kidney, and brain damage.
The arteries suffer when the blood pressure is high. The persistent pounding of the blood against the artery walls causes a buildup of cholesterol deposits, which can diminish blood flow and in theory set a person up for a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.
What Influences the Cardiovascular System?
- Our emotional states. When people are constantly stressed, anxious, sad, or depressed, these strong emotions could affect how efficiently their blood pressure works.
- Our activity levels like exercising regularly can have an impact. If the blood pressure levels return to normal during rest time, then it is fine.
- The health of our kidneys and brain.
- How hydrated we are.
- Our body position can also affect blood pressure. This is where yoga poses have positive benefits.
- Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can affect the body in general and the liver.
- The combination of salt and potassium in your food,
- The level of vitamin D.
- Chronic diseases like kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
What Is Recommended?
- Breath technique
- Restorative yoga
- Yoga poses such as Legs Up the Wall, supported Bridge, Easy inverted pose lying on your back with your calves on a chair seat, child pose on a bolster
- Use props such as a belt, a blanket, a cushion, and / or a bolster
- Supported inversions and/or partially inverted poses
- Meditation or guided meditation
What to Avoid
- Do not force yourself to do a 30-minute yoga practice if you are pressed with time. Divide these 30 minutes into 10-minute segments spread throughout the day.
- You do not have to hold a pose for a long time. Holding each pose for 30 to 60 seconds is helpful.
Arteries and Veins Explained
Arteries are blood vessels in charge of carrying oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the body.
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood low in oxygen from the body back to the heart for reoxygenation.
Arteries and veins are two of the body’s main type of blood vessels. These vessels are channels that distribute blood to the body.
Give It a Try
Your blood pressure is a function of a lot of factors inside your body working together to adjust the blood pressure higher or lower depending on what you are doing.
Be creative and try different things. See what works for you and makes you feel more engaged and alive with your yoga practice.
You do not have to practice yoga every day. Three or four times a week is enough especially if you do other kinds of physical activities.
Controlling Your Blood Pressure (2018). Harvard Health Publication Special Health Report.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Danny from India on August 24, 2020:
Very useful tips for maintaining your BP levels. I guess stress is the prime contributor to High BP.
Immediately switching to relax mode is very important whenever you feel stressed.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 23, 2020:
Excellent. Good article. Thanks.