yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Can Yoga alleviate high blood pressure? Stress has an impact on the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of an individual. This can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure or hypertension, in addition to other factors. Hypertension results when there is an increased amount of pressure in the arteries of an individual. Yoga techniques, such as relaxation and deep breathing, can help alleviate high blood pressure due to the positive effects on the individual.

This is not always the case, but blood pressure often rises as a result of the fight-or-flight response being activated. The impact of chronic stress tightens the muscles and constricts the blood vessels, which leads to high blood pressure. Regular practice of any form of Yoga can relax the muscles and reverse the impact of increased pressure in the bloodstream.  In addition to the consistent practice of Yoga having a direct impact on reducing blood pressure, this practice can help reduce the risk factors of developing hypertension. One risk factor is obesity. Regular Hatha Yoga exercise, and a Yogic lifestyle, can contribute to weight loss, which reduces the hypertension.

The practice of Yoga breathing techniques (pranayama) can help in relaxing a person, which reduces the effects of stress on the body, as more oxygen enters the bloodstream. Deep breathing can then contribute to a decrease in blood pressure. An intentional focus on a Yoga practitioner’s breathing keeps the mind off stressful events, which leads to decreased anxiety and stress. The alternative nostril breathing technique helps to relax the body, and mind, as a person inhales through one nostril – followed by the exhalation out of the other nostril.

The practice of Yoga poses can contribute to deep states of calm and inner peace. When a person alternates between tightening and relaxing of the muscles, the body becomes in tune with the relaxed mental state. This practice leads to a focus away from worrying.  Yogic breathing is also connected directly with the Yoga poses, which relaxes the body and mind further. Yoga poses, which can be helpful in alleviating hypertension, are: Half downward dog, Half spinal twist, Cat pose, and the Knees-to-Chest pose.

Asanas, such as the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) have an energizing and relaxing effect on the body, which decreases the effects of stress on the body, including hypertension. As a person focuses on the breathing and sequence of movement, stress is released constructively.  Sun Salutations are recommended during the morning hours for many reasons. If we view these Yoga exercises similar to the Sun Salutations, only from a medical and scientific viewpoint, we lose sight of the entire purpose.

Yet, for the sake of scientific skeptics, let’s indulge in analyzing Yogic exercise with sequential movements for therapeutic purposes. The movement of Sun Salutations, Vinyasa Yoga, and Lunar salutations (Chandra Namaskar) has a positive effect on the entire body – by increasing the oxygen flow to the bloodstream.  At the same time, any movement, which is performed on a regular basis, for two or three times a week, is not enough to promise a serious “calorie burn.” However, as Yoga becomes a lifestyle, the practitioner is bound to make healthy choices, due to an internal change, which occurs within the mind. This change can be classified as Yoga in practice.

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