Yoga Could Help You Control Your Hypertension
Are you one of the millions of Americans who have hypertension (high blood pressure)? High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss. Unfortunately, you can develop these conditions even if you never experienced any high blood pressure symptoms. Although medication offers an effective way to keep your blood pressure under control, it isn't the only option. Yoga lowers your blood pressure naturally and could allow you to decrease your medication dosage or even manage your blood pressure without medication.
High Blood Pressure Can Harm Your Health
The pumping action of your heart generates the pressure needed to circulate blood through your arteries. Hypertension occurs when the pressure against the walls of your arteries is too high. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause these health problems:
- Blood Vessel Damage. High blood pressure damages the walls of your arteries and makes them stiffer. As a result, your heart must work much harder to circulate your blood.
- Plaque Build-Up. It's much easier for plaque to clog or narrow your arteries if they're damaged due to high blood pressure. Plaque is a waxy substance made up of fat, calcium, cholesterol, waste products, and other products that clot the blood. Plaque build-up can increase your risk of blood clots that could lead to strokes or heart attacks.
- Atherosclerosis. People who have high blood pressure are at increased risk of hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis.
- Burst Blood Vessels. High blood pressure may cause weak spots, or aneurysms, in your blood vessels. If a weak spot bursts, you could experience a stroke or heart attack.
- Enlarged Heart. Your heart could enlarge and weaken if you have high blood pressure, which would affect your heart's ability to pump blood.
Your risk of high blood pressure may increase due to:
- A family history of high blood pressure
- Heavy alcohol use
- Being overweight or obese
- An unhealthy diet
- Lack of exercise
How Yoga Can Help You Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you practice yoga several times per week, you may notice:
- Less Stress. Yoga is a proven stress-reduction method. In a research study published in Anxiety, Stress & Coping, study participants who took yoga classes for four months reported less stress and anxiety and better psychological health than their co-workers who were on a waitlist for the classes. A researcher at the University of Connecticut discovered that the mental relaxation and breathing techniques used during yoga classes also had a beneficial impact on blood pressure. The largest drops in blood pressure were noted in people who performed the physical movements of yoga, along with relaxation techniques and deep breathing.
- Improved Circulation. Yoga stimulates your circulation and improves blood flow throughout your entire body.
- Slower Heartrate. If you practice yoga regularly, your heart rate may soon become slower, which will decrease the force of the blood against the arteries.
- Relaxed Central Nervous System. Stressful situations trigger the "fight-or-flight" response from your central nervous system. The response increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and adrenaline, the hormone that gives you bursts of energy during stressful events. High levels of these hormones can raise your blood pressure. Luckily, yoga has a moderating effect on your central nervous system that prevents these hormone levels from rising.
Yoga Poses That Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure
The next time you feel stressed, try the child's pose. Start the pose on your hands and knees. Sit back on your heels, keeping your knees slightly apart. Slowly lower your upper body to the floor and extend your arms in front of you. Breathe in and out deeply for five to 10 counts before returning to your original position.
Performing the child's pose decreases stress, improves circulation, and releases tension in your back, shoulder, and chest muscles.
Other poses that can help you keep your blood pressure under control include:
- Bridge Pose
- Corpse Pose
- Easy Pose
- Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose
- Seated Forward Bend
- Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
- Head-to-Knee Pose
- Dolphin Pose
Although many yoga poses are beneficial for your blood pressure, Yoga International recommends avoiding unsupported inversions, like handstands or headstands. If you feel a throbbing sensation in your neck or throat, it's best to move to another pose.
If you're ready to give yoga a try, contact us for more information about our classes.
Anxiety, Stress & Coping: The Effects of Yoga on Stress and Psychological Health Among Employees: an 8- and 16-Week Intervention Study, 9/5/17
University of Connecticut: Study: Yoga Breathing and Relaxation Lower Blood Pressure, 6/19/19
University of Missouri School of Medicine: Can Yoga Lower Your Blood Pressure?, 10/18/19
MedlinePlus: High Blood Pressure