By Seema Deshpande
Can yoga reduce blood pressure? Practising yoga, either in the form of yoga postures, pranayama or meditation, has innumerable benefits. Consistent practice of yoga can help one stay fit both physically and emotionally. In addition, yoga has the potential to improve one’s spiritual quotient as well. In comparison to other forms of exercises, such as strenuous gym exercises, practising safe yoga has relatively lower risks, and can be tailored to suit the needs of various people – young or old, healthy or physically weak, normal or athletes. Yoga can be performed by anybody and everybody.
Now-a-days, doctors are attempting to adopt yoga as a means of alternative and complementary medicine. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a part of the US Health and Human Sciences Department, recognises yoga as a form of complementary and alternative medicine in the mind-body medicine category. To examine yoga from this angle, let’s consider a condition known as hypertension or high blood pressure. While high blood pressure in itself is a serious disorder, the condition if not treated and controlled, can result in more dangerous and grave health issues such as cardiovascular problems, failure of the kidneys, and so on. Let’s examine if yoga can lower the blood pressure in people suffering from high blood pressure.
According to NCCAM, some research studies reveal that meditation and yoga can have a positive impact in reducing blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. Likewise, yoga practitioners believe that activities such as pranayama or breathing exercises and meditation can significantly help in reducing anxiety and panic disorders in people. Reducing stress levels and anxiety can largely benefit people with high blood pressure.
Further, research studies noted in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology revealed that yoga practices significantly benefitted those suffering from hypertension, and helped in bringing down their blood pressure levels. Research was conducted on people weighing anywhere between 53 to 81 kilograms, within the age range of 35 to 65 years. The results of the research, in fact, revealed that among the patients on whom the experiment was conducted, patients who participated in yoga practices fared better than those who were just administered anti-hypertensive drugs. The patients who participated in yoga practices practised yoga for one hour each in the mornings and evenings, six days a week. Yoga practices involved exercises such as Shavasana, Pavanamuktasana, Vajrasana, Yoga mudra, Tadasana, Om recitation, and meditation.
While research studies are starting to reveal that yoga can have a favourable impact on lowering high blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension, results of some research studies reveal that yoga or relaxation techniques may or may not help to lower the blood pressure. The NCCAM suggests that yoga and relaxation techniques can be incorporated in a comprehensive and a holistic plan to reduce and prevent high blood pressure.
While it may be a good idea to practise yoga to prevent and / or reduce high blood pressure, patients must not unilaterally take decisions, and most importantly, consult with their physicians before practising yoga or specific yoga postures. People suffering from hypertension should not, on their own, substitute yoga in place of anti-hypertensive drugs. Before taking any decision or action, patients must discuss with their physicians, and if and only if the physicians give a go ahead, patients must practise yoga only under the guidance of trained and qualified teachers.
Murugesan, R., N. Govindarajulu, and T. K. Bera. “Effect of selected yogic practices on the management of hypertension.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 44.2 (2000): 207-210.
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