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Yoga for high blood pressure (hypertension)

Yoga can help cure High BP. Practice of yoga asana, pranayama, mindfulness and related yogic living processeshelp reduce and cure high BP. Regular yoga practice induce a deep sense of body-mind calmness, lowers stress hormone cortisol, activates PNS response. Read on…

One in three Urban Indian and one in four rural adults have high blood pressure…

High blood pressure has become the number one health issue in India. There are chances that at least one person around you, may be a family member, a friend or colleague is suffering from high BP. Why so? Because more than 200 million adult Indians have this health issue.

What is High BP?

Also called hypertension, it is a medical condition in which blood pressure in arteries is elevated for a considerable amount of time. It is expressed by two measurements the maximum (systolic BP) and the minimum (diastolic BP). Normal BP is 120/80. High diastolic BP is considered more fatal than high systolic BP as it can produce more serious long term effects.

If sustained for a long time, high blood pressure can manifest other problems like hypertensive heart disease, coronary heart disease, chronic kidney disease etc.

Types of High Blood Pressure

1. Primary – When there is no obvious cause for hypertension. Almost 90% of cases are categorized as essential hypertensive.

2. Secondary – Hypertension due to underlying disease such as endocrine disorders, chronic kidney disease etc.

Causes of Hypertension

1. Stress

2. Obesity

3. Depression

4. High salt intake

5. Lack of exercise

6. Insulin resistance

7. Vitamin D deficiency

Traditional treatment includes medication and life style modification such as exercise, diet modifications, smoking and alcohol restriction and stress reduction. Many studies and reviews suggest yoga is a multifunctional modality, which helps people in this condition.

How Yoga Benefits High Blood Pressure?

1. Yoga asana when done with conscious breathing, balances and stabilises autonomic nervous system thus regulating blood pressure.

2. Yoga practice relaxes muscles, lowering the requirement for blood and oxygen for the working muscles, thus lowering the stress of cardiovascular system.

3. Yoga reduces Mental Stress – Major cause of Hypertension. It calms the mind and maintain balance between mind and body.

4. Not only does yoga reduce high BP but it has also been demonstrated to effectively reduce cholesterol level and body weight which in turn reduces BP.

5. Yoga reduces adrenalin level and switches off fight-flight response of body, thus reducing BP.

6. Chronic stress can induce sustained muscular contraction, which in turn raises hypertension. Yoga practice can relaxes the working muscles and revert this effect.

7. It is proved in preliminary studies that yoga can reduce platelet aggregation – yet another cause of high BP.

8. Certain yoga asanas increases blood supply to kidneys and adrenal glands which in turn help to regulate BP.

9. Yoga practice can also reduce stress hormone aldosterone production, a potent vasoconstrictor.

10. Yoga calms sympathetic nervous system, hence lowering BP.

Yoga asana for High BP

In most of form of exercises, there is considerable stress put on cardiovascular system but in yoga asanas this stress goes down as the requirement of blood and oxygen goes down when the muscles are relaxed. Some of the yoga asana do’s and dont’s for high bp are…

1. The asanas helpful in managing high blood pressure are most of forward bends and some of inversions also. It is wise to adapt few modifications such as forward bends with head supported which decreases stress in head, neck, face and diaphragm.

2. Standing poses in which arms are extended overhead like virabhadra asana can be modified by placing hands on hips.

3. Also in trikona asana, instead of looking up at ceiling, look down towards the floor to prevent BP to rise.

4. Avoid poses like dhanur asana, mayor asana as it compresses diaphragm, which can in turn raise blood pressure.

5. People with uncontrolled hypertension should avoid yoga asana like unsupported inversions such as headstand and shoulder stand.

6. Not all inversions can cause adverse effects on BP. Hal asana, which provides a mild stretch along the pathways of vagus nerve and carotid artery has beneficial effects. It can be made comfortable by elevating feet on chair rather than floor.

Please Note: In any of the asanas if you feel dizzy, flushed or uncomfortable come out of that pose and rest in balasana until you feel normal.

Pranayama for High BP

In addition to practicing asana, pranayama has also shown to have positive effects on regulating BP. Rhythmic breathing in particular can reduce effect of constant stress.

Breathing exercises has ability to revitalize the entire body. It reduces level of stress hormone cortisol, thus lowering Hypertension.

1. Deergha swasam – This breathing pranayama technique helps to improve oxygenation of body, almost 7 times as compared to normal breathing.

2. Ujayi pranayama – This pranayama technique builds heat in the body and increases oxygenation. It balances pranic flow of energy in body. It affects carotid sinus which helps to regulate BP.

3. Nadi shudhi pranayam – this techniques helps to calm the body as a whole.

4. Anulom vilom.

5. Rhythmic breathing.

6. Chandrabhedi pranayama.

Pranayama to avoid…

1. People suffering from high BP should not perform Kumbhaka (Breath retention)

2. People with uncontrolled BP should not do kapalabhati. Controlled hypertensives can perform it but under supervision. Always start with slow rate and less force of exhalation.

Also Read… Breathing exercises help manage Blood Pressure

Mindfulness Meditation for High blood Pressure

Mind and Body are connected very intimately. When mind is calm, body also relaxes. Practicing mindfulness helps to reduce negative effects of stress and hence reduces blood pressure.

The correct method of mindfulness meditation is the one that focuses the mind on an object to elicit relaxation. There are many types of mindfulness techniques, one should find the method best suitable…

1. Omkar Chanting done for 15 minutes has shown miraculous reduction in bp.

2. Transcendental Meditation involves focusing at one repetitive action such as word, mantra, picture to calm the mind and brings nervous system into balance.

3. Immersion Meditation uses sound or touch like ringing of bell, chanting of mantras etc to focus the mind.

4. Yoga Nidra, a form of guided meditation practice designed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, removes physical, mental and emotional strains and produces deep relaxation.

Also Read… Lower Blood pressure with Mindfulness Meditation

Mudras for Controlling High Blood Pressure

Hand Mudras are specific hand gestures which form part of yoga. Mudras stimulate different parts of our body, particularly brain and heart. These work to relax the muscles which eases the flow of blood, thereby normalising the blood pressure. A study conducted on 15 hypertensive patients of age 35-65 years proved that these mudras help in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Apana Vayu Mudra is particularly helpful for hypertensive patients as it reduces the high blood pressure levels, heart rate and stress. 

1/3. Apana Vayu Mudra

this is a hand gesture in which the thumb of a hand touches the middle and ring fingers with the index finger touching down on the base of thumb in the palm. Little finger shall be straight. This pose shall be held for a time period of 10-15 minutes or so. In a day, this shall be practiced for about 45 minutes. The biggest advantage of this mudra is that it is helpful in controlling high BP. Secondly, it is also effective for people with gastric and digestive issues. Third, it helps in improving the movement of bowels. For women, this is helpful during menstrual periods. 

Besides the Apana Mudra, Surya Mudra and Prana Mudra are also believed to help people with high BP and various other ailments. 

2/3. Surya Mudra

In this gesture, the tip of the ring finger touches the base of thumb while all other fingers are kept straight. This is believed to reduce cholesterol thereby normalizing flow of blood. It also increases body heat, improves digestion and reduces weight.

3/3. Prana Mudra

In this gesture, the tips of little and ring fingers touch the tip of thumb and the other two fingers are kept straight. It is believed to invoke prana, improve eyesight, improves immunity and reduced tiredness. 

Precautions/Contraindications while performing the following…

1/3. Inversion Yoga Asana

These are the asanas where head is positioned lower than the heart, generally contraindicated in persons with high blood pressure. When we invert our body i.e. head is lower than the heart level or lower limbs are above the heart level, there is pooling of blood in the head and increase in pressure in cranial blood vessels. Normally we can adapt to this blood pooling and mild increase in pressure of cranial blood vessels, but for hypertensive individuals where resting blood pressure is already elevated, sudden inversions can add to elevated BP and can prove to be fatal.

But if inversions are introduced gradually, even for hypertensive persons there is strengthening of vessel wall muscles, by challenging them to contract against greater pressure each time they perform inversions.

So it is better to introduce them over a period of several months starting from mild inversions moving to headstand. The progression should go like this:

Adho Mukha Svanasana
3. Salamba Sarvangasana
4. Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

But it is always better to take physician consent before performing inversions. Also it is mandatory to practice it under expert supervision.

2/3. Breath holding in pranayama or while practicing asana.

Another area of concern is breath holding while practising pranayama or performing asanas. This holding of breath act as a strain to body, strain in turn stimulates sympathetic nervous system which in turn elevates blood pressure.

While performing asana there is an increase in demand of oxygen and blood to working muscles, holding the breath at that time can cause carbon dioxide build up in cells and can eventually causes cell death, which we certainly don’t want.

Avoid kumbhaka while practicing pranayama and practice relaxation in midst of effort and breathe smoothly and regularly while performing asanas.

3/3. Heat and Hypertension.

A preheated room as in hot yoga also increases cardiovascular strain, as your heart has to pump more owing to water loss during perspiration, which causes increase in blood pressure. It is not only heat that stresses cardiovascular system but, it is depletion of body’s electrolytes.

Many of the body’s electrolytes such as calcium, sodium, potassium are consumed for normal muscle functioning. So when balance between these electrolytes gets upset, muscles have to work harder to compensate for the loss. This in turn makes the heart work harder and subsequently increases blood pressure.

Hot yoga is not advisable for persons with uncontrolled blood pressure, and if your blood pressure is controlled with medications you can join hot yoga after taking doctors consent, while practicing drink plenty of water to compensate for water loss.

It is wise that beginners should always start with a generic sequence consisting of simple yoga postures followed by pranayama and meditation till the time their body gets habituated with the same. Never overexert yourself; you should gradually increase number of repetitions and duration of holding of asanas. All asanas should be practiced with ease.

Finally, bear in mind that yoga is not only about asana, pranayama and mindfulness; it is a way of life.

Yoga is more of self awareness, self acceptance and a way to more spiritual approach to life. High BP (Blood Pressure) is turning out to be a LIFESTYLE Health issues. Yoga asana, Pranayama, Mindfulness, Meditation and Correct Diet can help control and eliminate this dreaded life threatening ailment.

Yes! Yoga works for High BP patients. Most of the Doctors, nowadays, are recommending yoga cure for bp related issues. Please consult a related professional for your needs… Attend related classes, lectures, workshops and/or courses, whenever possible.

A writers note: I have kept these specific articles very generic and basic. These complex issues need a personalised attention. I request you to meet a related expert to understand your needs, limits and what can work for you. All the Best!

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