To function properly, the human body must maintain sufficient blood pressure, to allow blood to be pushed to all extremities and flow throughout the body. However, when the blood pressure is very high, it is known as hypertension. The heart must work hard, and strain, to pump the blood volume. Hypertensive patients are at high risk for organ damage, including damage to the retina, brain, heart, and kidneys.
Yoga is shown to lower blood pressure, and those who regularly practice a Yogic lifestyle, usually enjoy lower rates of hypertension than the general population. Practicing Yoga, to control hypertension, has been proven effective – without the side effects experienced with medication. However, proper instruction with a competent Yoga teacher and a medical professional are strongly advised.
Note: Anyone with hypertension should discuss their treatment with a physician, including any Yoga practice they intend to pursue.
B. K. S. Iyengar, one of the world’s foremost experts on Yoga and a teacher for 75 years, offers a number of suggestions regarding the practice of Yoga to reduce hypertension. B. K. S. Iyengar’s book, “Light on Yoga,” details the asanas, which regulate the blood pressure. Forward bends, supine positions, sitting positions, and inversions all help blood pressure, with forward bends being the fundamental asanas recommended.
Note: The above mentioned inversions are recommended for the purpose of “regulating” blood pressure – but may not be advised for those individuals who have high blood pressure.
B. K. S. Iyengar recommends the following Yoga poses (asanas), in particular, for the management of high blood pressure: Savasana (resting pose), Virasana (hero pose), Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), and Baddha Konasana (cobbler or bound ankle pose).
These poses relieve stress and relax the sympathetic nervous system, allowing blood pressure to drop. There are also several asanas that should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. Vrksasana (tree pose) should be practiced, without the arms raised overhead.
Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle pose) should be modified, by turning the head to gaze downward, leaving the hand at the waist instead of raising it upward. Virabhadrasana 2 and 3 (warrior two and three), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (full arm balance) and Sirsasana (headstand) should not be practiced at all by those with hypertension.
The definitive study on Yoga and high blood pressure is considered to be Chandra Patel and W.R.S. North’s research – published in the journal, “The Lancet” in 1975 – in which 34 hypertensive patients participated. They were assigned to either to Yoga relaxation methods with bio-feedback, or given a placebo therapy (general relaxation) for six weeks.
As a fully randomized study, the results were highly significant, with blood pressure in the Yoga group falling from 168/100 to 141/84 mm. (Normal blood pressure is generally considered to be 120/80 mm.) There is every reason, for those with hypertension, to explore Yoga as a complementary treatment.