Yoga is a mental, spiritual, and mental practice which has been showing its positive effects on humans for thousands of years. Apart from all its benefits, it can also be very beneficial to maintain optimum blood pressure for our body as it can be very helpful to lower the blood pressure if you are suffering from high blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a very critical health problem and lack of any treatment to this problem can lead to grave health conditions which include heart failure, vision loss, and stroke. Even though yoga does not provide the heart assistance needed alone, it can be beneficial through the treatment.
What is the dangerous level of high blood pressure?
Blood pressure can be explained as the force that blood exerts on the walls of arteries as it flows through them and if it consistently reaches high levels, it is called high blood pressure (HBP). Having consistently high blood pressure can lead to numerous health problems. Therefore, it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly and get treatment according to your doctor’s advice.
Mostly, people who have high blood pressure do not show any symptoms. Sometimes high blood pressure can show its presence with headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds. However, these symptoms are not specific to high blood pressure and usually, they are not present until this condition reaches to severe or life-threatening stages.
The causes of high blood pressure can be divided into two subcategories:
1. Essential (primary) high blood pressure: Most of the cases, there is no identifiable cause for high blood pressure. This type of blood pressure tends to develop gradually over many years.
2. Secondary high blood pressure: Sometimes the high blood pressure is caused by another underlying condition. This type of blood pressure tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary blood hypertension. Some of the conditions that can lead to hypertension are,
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney problems
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid problems
Various conditions can be listed as risk factors. Here are some of them,
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Increasing age
- Certain chronic conditions (such as kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea)
- Unhealthy diet (too much sodium, too little potassium, drinking too much alcohol)
- Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Physical inactivity
- Being obese or overweight
The excessive pressure on the artery walls because of hypertension can lead to damage to the blood vessels, as well as the organs in your body. The damage increases with the duration and the pressure of hypertension. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in several complications,
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys
- Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
- Kidney disease
- Memory problems
How to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Most of the cases high blood pressure is characterized as essential hypertension in which it is not triggered by another disease. There are various risk factors but most of them are preventable and reversible. Thus, making some lifestyle changes can often be effective in lowering blood pressure such as modifications of diet, stress management, regular exercise, lose weight and quit smoking.
Yoga for Hypertension
It is known that yoga has positive effects on both our psychological and physical health. With the help of yoga, the internal organs are rejuvenated and toned: the digestive, lymphatic, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and epidermal systems are purified from the waste material and toxins; the nervous and endocrine systems are balanced and the brain cells are stimulated. Overall, these results in increased mental clarity, and a better sense of well-being and self-recognition.
Several studies show that yoga can be more effective than regular exercise in terms of controlling high blood pressure. Since yoga works on so many levels as mental clarity and healthier physical state, it is better for both stress management and exercise necessary for our body. Thus, yoga could be effective in lowering high blood pressure.
However, it does not mean that only practicing yoga is effective in lowering high blood pressure without any medication or it is perfectly safe to do yoga. It is important to consult and get your treatment according to your doctor’s advice.
Can you do yoga if you have high blood pressure?
Practicing yoga can be effective in lowering high blood pressure. However, since yoga is a physical practice, it is important to consult your doctor on whether you can practice yoga or not.
Also, your yoga practice must be organized according to your health condition. In other words, your yoga practice should be organized in a way that it includes the poses that you will benefit and avoid those that can be harmful to your condition.
Vigorous yoga postures or breathing practices must be avoided when you first start to practice yoga. In addition, advanced inversions such as a headstand or shoulder stand must be avoided since these poses drastically reverse the blood flow by taking the hearth directly above the head. Moreover, heating breathing techniques such as Kapalbhati and Bhastrika Breath must be avoided because they increase blood pressure temporarily.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and it has developed into various forms based on their own emphasis and practices. Various styles of yoga can be beneficial to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance as well as it releases tension in your body and helps relax your mind. Since yoga works on so many levels, it can be effective in the treatment of chronic conditions.
As yoga poses involve conscious deep breathing while synchronizing your body, they help control the blood pressure naturally. The yoga poses help soothe the nerves and slow down the abnormal heartbeat. Lack of necessary amounts of rest is the major reason for stress. Yoga helps regularize sleep patterns thus, you can benefit from yoga to release your stress.
It is advised to lose weight if you have high blood pressure. Since yoga is an important physical practice, it helps us maintain proper weight. Improved diet and optimum weight are important to avoid and help hypertension.
Is Hot yoga OK for high blood pressure?
Recently, hot yoga has gain popularity all around the world. Since its introduction to the United States, the heated style of Bikram yoga had diverged into various forms of hot yoga. Heated yoga class involves a room which is heated around 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.
Due to the rooms conditions, it brings the risk that the hot yoga might put too much strain on the heart, causing blood pressure to rise even higher. Although hot yoga is expected to reduce high blood pressure over time, it is essential to speak to a doctor before beginning this practice.
Even if you have your doctor’s permission, it is important to listen to your body and not force it too much through the practice. You should stop practicing hot yoga immediately if you begin to feel short of breath, lightheaded or nauseous.
Here are 6 yoga poses that are good for your high blood pressure
1. Easy Pose
It one of the most basic yoga poses. To begin the pose, sit cross-legged on the ground with your knees wide apart. The spine must be kept straight. Sit in this position and slowly breathe in this position as long as you can.
2. Bound Angle Pose
Sit down on the ground and bring the soles of your legs together. Then you will bring your heels close to your pelvis by gently holding the toes with your hands. Sit up tall on your sitting bones and take a deep breath. Then gently bend over while maintaining your spine straight. Try to go as far as possible but do not let your spine curve. Maintain the position for 3 to 5 second while continuing to breathe.
3. Bridge Pose
Start the position by lying down on your back with your knees bent, with placing your feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground. Your arms must be placed on the sides of your body and the palms must face downward on the floor. Then, press your feet into the floor, take a deep breath and gently lift your hips up while rolling the spine off the floor. Use your arms and shoulders to press and lift your chest. Engage your legs, buttocks to lift your hips higher. Try to maintain this position for 4-8 breaths.
4. Cobra Pose
Begin the pose from lying flat on your stomach while your legs are straight. Feet should be placed hip-width apart and your hands should be folded in front of you. Try to feel comfortable. Then join both legs and stretch your hands overhead. Following, put your hands back to your chest. Your elbows must be bent and your palms must be placed on the side of your chest. Lift the upper body with a deep breath. Your elbows must be in line with your body. Your legs should be stretched without a lot of tension on your hips. Maintain this position while breathing for 15 – 30 seconds. lower your torso back to the ground gently.
5. Supported Child’s Pose
Have a long pillow off to one side. Then, kneel down with your knees out wide to the edges of the mat. Let your knees touch and sit your hips back onto your heels. Take the pillow and put it vertically up and down the mat with one end between your thighs. Lower your chest and put your one cheek onto the floor by walking your hands forward. Close your eyes and let your forearms rest on the mat. Maintain this pose for 1.5 min then turn your head and place your other cheek for another 1.5 min.
6. Hero Pose
Kneel on the floor with your inner knees together and place your feet hip-width apart. Sit back on your heels while your heels touch the outside of your hips. Place your hands on your knees either facing up or down. Then, lengthen your spine while pressing lower legs down into the floor. Let your shoulders drop down and back, and press your chest towards the front. Relax your jaw, face, and belly. Breathe deeply as you can and maintain this position as long as you are comfortable.
Which yoga poses should be avoided?
For those who have high blood pressure, yoga must be practiced with safety. It is important to never let the head dip below the heart in the inverted yoga poses. In other words, you should avoid inversions. The reason behind is that when the head is below the heart, the chance of getting stroke increases. Also, the sudden flow of blood to the head is not safe when you have high blood pressure.
It is also risky to practice rigorous classes and practice yoga in hot rooms. It is necessary to ask for your doctor’s permission first. Even if you have your doctor’s permission, it is important to start slowly and proceed according to your body. You have to stop and get rest as you start to feel dizzy or experience rapid breathing.
Here are some yoga poses that you should avoid:
- Forearm Stand
- Shoulder Stand
- Downward Facing Dog
- Standing Forward Bends
Apart from the yoga poses, the breathing exercises (pranayamas) are very helpful in controlling the blood pressure because they improve the blood circulation in our body and they relieve our stress.
Some breathing exercises that can help to control your blood pressure
1. Bhramari Pranamaya (bee breathing)
This breathing exercise is beneficial in relieving the tension, anxiety. The vibrations generated relaxes the body and mind. Therefore, this exercise is helpful in balancing high blood pressure.
2. Dirgha Pranamaya (three-part breath)
This breathing exercise is beneficial to overcome shallow breathing.
3. Ujjayi Pranamaya (ocean breath)
This breathing exercise improves your focus and increases the sense of power and control over your blood pressure.
4. Viloma Pranamaya (against the natural order)
This breathing exercise involves interrupted inhalation. This exercise is best performed while lying down or on your back while your arms are relaxed by your side in what is known as the Corpse Posture.