When most people think of yoga asana (poses) flexibility, relaxation and perhaps meditation come to mind. Using yoga practice for a system of healing the body seldom enters the mind of those living in the Western hemisphere. In spite of today’s prevailing reliance on prescription medicines here in the US, yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to remain healthy and free from disease. Concerns like high blood pressure (HBP), a condition the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) calls “The Silent Killer”, have been dealt with in the East using this using this ancient system of healing.
One in three Americans has high blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. High blood pressure (aka hypertension) is frequently a precursor to heart disease and stroke, the number one killer of Americans. Specific yoga poses are known to be beneficial exercises for high blood pressure.
According to the US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health: “Yoga therapy is a multifunctional exercise modality with numerous benefits. Not only does yoga reduce high BP but it has also been demonstrated to effectively reduce blood glucose level, cholesterol level, and body weight, major problems affecting the American society.”
Lowering the BP numbers
In the United States, someone dies approximately every 33 seconds from heart disease, according to UMMC. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends exercise, stress management and weight management to prevent high blood pressure, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. Yoga helps with all three of these recommendations.
Yoga practice has been shown to lower blood pressure, especially the diastolic score, according to the American Yoga Association (AYA). Blood pressure is measured as two numbers, a systolic score written over a diastolic score. The systolic number is the measure of blood pressure while the heart is beating (pumping blood). Diastolic refers to the blood pressure reading between beats. The AYA states that the diastolic number is the most important. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, people with high diastolic blood pressure frequently develop high systolic blood pressure too.
Yoga works to reduce high blood pressure through promoting relaxation of the mind and body. Practicing yoga helps eliminate the negative impacts of stress, including tension, shallow breathing and an elevated heart rate. And according to Prevention magazine, it also improves physical strength and flexibility, plus it’s found to assist with weight loss.
Asanas most beneficial to high blood pressure
Certain yoga asanas are therapeutic and lower high blood pressure, according to Yoga Journal. Genereally speaking, asanas that do not invert the body are beneficial for people with high blood pressure. Calming restorative yoga asanas are particularly useful for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure naturally, as are intensive stretching poses like leg stretches and hip openers. If you’re new to yoga, practice asanas that put the spine in a horizontal position, which allows the heart to slow down, as it takes less effort to pump the blood to the brain. Sitting positions and lying asanas like Baddhakonasana (butterfly pose), Virasana (hero pose), and Upavista Konasana (seated wide angle forward bend pose) are very useful (and generally safe) for people with high blood pressure.
The more commonly known poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) and Sukhasana (easy pose) are beneficial, but so are some lesser known exercises like the following…
* – Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) – Sit with legs straight and pressed together. Exhale through the nose and bend forward at the hips. Keep the back straight and reach for the toes.
* – Ustrasana (camel pose) – Kneel on the floor. Exhale and a