There is no dearth of diseases in today’s time and age considering the multiple demands and complexities of modern life make it almost impossible for one to lead a healthy lifestyle. No wonder the ancient practice of Yoga is becoming more popular with each passing day and being trusted as an adjunct therapy even by allopathy doctors who suggest their patients to do Yogasanas and pranayamas to get better.
High blood pressure or hypertension is among the leading lifestyle diseases which is becoming common in people of all age groups. One of the reasons for BP is stress which is a risk factor for a plethora of other chronic diseases too. Yoga helps you de-stress, relax, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you release tensions and also helps the body to heal on its own.
According to a 2019 study by MayoClinic, overweight and middle-aged adults with high blood pressure who did yoga for an hour about five times a week for 13 weeks had significant improvement in their blood pressure readings. The improvements were even better when breathing techniques and meditation were included as part of the routine.
High blood pressure is considered a silent killer and not without a reason. With no visible symptoms, unmanaged hypertension can slowly and surely damage your crucial organs like heart, brain and kidney.
Even when your condition is diagnosed, managing blood pressure is a tricky business and many a time despite taking regular medications, your BP levels just don’t read normal. For uninitiated, blood pressure is actually the pressure of blood pushing against your arteries’ walls. Arteries perform an important function of carrying blood from your heart to other parts of your body. When this pressure is too high consistently, you need medication to control it in order for it to function properly and perform its job well.
As it hardly shows any symptoms in the initial stage, it is difficult to diagnose the condition. This is the reason doctors advise to go for regular BP check-up in case one is suffering from any other chronic disease. There’s a way to read your blood pressure even at home. All you need is a sphygmomanometer that gives you two readings. The first (systolic) number is the pressure in blood vessels when your heart contracts or beats and the second (diastolic) number is the pressure in the vessels when your heart rests between beats. A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80. mmHg.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, apart from the diet modification and medication, you can try some simple yogasanas, pranayamas and meditation techniques that could not only help lower your blood pressure readings but also steer you towards a healthy lifestyle. Notably, various yogasanas prevent diseases in the first place and slows down progression of the diseases in case it has been detected.
Yogasanas for high blood pressure
- Vajrasana (Thunderbolt or diamond pose)
Vajrasana is perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient of all asanas. It can be performed anywhere and anytime but it should definitely be done post meals as it is extremely beneficial in digestion. Vajrasana also strengthens nerves around your thighs and legs. It is effective in keeping at bay knee pain, acidity and urinary issues.
How to perform Vajrasana at home
- Sit down on your Yoga mat with your back straight and bring your feet forward.
- Keep your hands beside the hip and palms should be resting on the floor.
- Fold the right leg under the knee and place your foot under the right buttock.
- Similarly fold your left leg under the knee and place the left foot under your left buttock.
- Your big toes should touch each other.
- Now keep your hands on the knees and close your eyes.
- Breathe in and breathe out relaxing your body completely. Maintain the pose for a few minutes.
- Sukhasana (Easy pose)
One of the foundational asanas in Yoga practice, sukhasana offers many benefits for strengthening muscles in your back, hips and spine. Practicing it daily can not only improve posture but calm your mind helping to connect it to parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn aids in reducing hypertension, and therefore, directly or indirectly works on bringing down blood pressure.
How to perform Sukhasana at home
- Sit down keeping your spine straight. Now stretch your legs forward.
- Place the left shin under your right thigh and vice versa.
- Keep your palms on your thighs making sure that your back is straight.
- The outer edge of your foot should touch the floor.
- Relax your shoulders and close your eyes taking deep breaths in a relaxed manner.
- Interchange your legs a couple of times.
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Balasana derives its name from two Sanskrit words ‘bala’ and ‘asana’ which means child and pose respectively. Balasana can help manage stress, offers deep relaxation, eases muscular tension and helps improve blood circulation in the body. The asana thus helps eliminate triggers for hypertension and is therefore recommended for blood pressure patients. In addition, it boosts sleep quality which again is helpful when you are suffering from blood pressure issues.
How to perform Balasana
- Sit on your knees and move your body forward resting the palms of your body on the floor in table pose.
- Now bring your hips to the heels and forehead to the floor.
- Spread the knees slightly apart.
- Your arms are then to be stretched forward over your head and palms should touch the floor.
- Palms can be stacked under the forehead or kept alongside the body in upward direction.
- Be in the pose for a few minutes.
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
The word Paschimottanasana is made with three Sanskrit words – paschim (west or back of the body), uttana (intense stretch) and asana
(pose). Easy to perform, this asana has many benefits for both mind and body. While it helps cut the fat from your abdominal area it also
aids in relieving stress and normalising high blood pressure.
Steps to do Paschimottanasana
- Sit and extend both your legs forward with the toes inwards.
- Keep your back straight.
- Inhale and raise your arms up and bring the hands in line with the ears.
- Now bring your upper body forward slowly.
- Rest both your elbows to the ground and hold toes of your legs. Alternatively you can wrap your arms around your feet and put your head down.
- While raising your arms back up, inhale and make sure they are in line with your ears.
- Extend the spine upwards. Exhale and bring both the arms down.
- Repeat it a couple of times
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Setu Bandhasana is derived from three words – setu (bridge) + bandha (lock) + asana (pose). The asana is beneficial for nervous system and helps stretch the spine. It also aids in lowering blood pressure by easing stress from the body. The asana provides a good stretch to chest, neck, back, hip and hamstrings. It improves blood circulation and stimulates lungs. It is also good for mental health as it alleviates stress.
Steps to perform Setu Bandhasana
- Lie down on your back.
- Raise your hips. Bring them up so high that your chest touches your chin.
- To release the pose, bring your hip down gently.
- You can perform this asana a couple of times.
- Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)
Adho mukha svanasana is made with four words – adhas (down), mukha (face), svana (dog) and asana (pose). A powerful yoga pose that releases stress from your spine and shoulder, it also improves heart function. The asana is very good for improving flexibility. It strengthens your bone, muscles and improves flexibility. Adho mukha svanasana also improves blood flow to the brain.
Steps to perform Adho mukha svanasana
- Lie down on your belly
- Place your palms closer to your chest and keep your legs together
- Lift your upper body up while your knees are still placed on the floor, then slowly rise up
- Your head is downwards while your back is arched up
- Your palms must be placed on the floor with fingers separated
- Your heels should touch the floor completely
- As your lower back and hips go up, your abdomen contracts
- Take few deep breaths and release the asana
- Do it a couple of times
- Ardha Halasana (Half plough pose)
Ardha Halasana or half plough pose is excellent to regulate chronic diseases including blood pressure. The word Ardha Halasana is made up of ‘ardha’ (half), ‘hal’ (plough) and ‘asana’ (pose). The asana eases migraine pain, improves blood circulation and brings down stress. This is also recommended to cut belly fat. In addition to this, it helps improve bowel function and stimulates abdominal organs.
Steps to perform ardha halasana
- Lie down on your back
- Join both your legs together keep your hands on the sides
- Now slowly raise your legs up so that they form a 90 degree angle with your torso.
- Keep your knees straight.
- Stay in this position for a while and come out of the pose slowly.
- Repeat and do it for a couple of times.
- Shavasana (Corpse pose)
Shavasana is a restorative pose that is recommended to all given the hectic lifestyle people lead nowadays. The asana provides deep relaxation as it releases stress from every nook and corner of the body. It can be very effective in management of high blood pressure. Though perceived to be easy, the asana requires you to be completely mindful of all your body parts. After feeling the stress, the next step is to release it well. This may take consistent practice. The asana calms the mind, relaxes the body and rejuvenates you with fresh energy.
Steps to perform Shavasana
- Lie down on your back
- Spread your legs a bit and relax your back, shoulders and neck muscles
- Take a deep breath and observe how your are inhaling and exhaling
- After a few deep breaths, start scanning your body for releasing stress one part at a time.
- You can start with your toes and move up to your legs, thighs, lower back, back, shoulders and then move on to your neck muscles before coming to your facial area.
- Shavasana can last from 5-10 minutes to even 30 minutes. It can be done at the end of your Yoga routine or starting of it.
Pranayama for high blood pressure
Anulom Vilom (Alternate nostril breathing)
Anulom Vilom is a pranayama or breathing exercise technique that requires one to hold one nostril while inhaling and then switching to the other one for exhaling and repeating this for many times. Anulom Vilom helps release stress, anxiety and improve focus. Some studies show that anulom vilom can help improve heart function, and also blood pressure and heart rate.
Bhramari pranayama is inspired from the sound of bee or madhumakhi and this breathing technique is also known as bee breath and it is said that by doing this asana you connect with all the positive forces of the universe. To do this asana, one can sit in a cross legged position, close eyes and place both index fingers above your eyebrows and other fingers on your eyes. Keeping mouth closed, breath out through your nose and make a humming sound. This asana is highly recommended for controlling blood pressure.
This pranayama is usually recommended in summers as it has a cooling effect on the body and a calming effect on nervous system. This asana works very well for lowering high blood pressure but must not be attempted if your BP has dipped low. To do this pranayama, sit in a comfortable position and fold both the edges of your tongue in such a way that it forms a tube. Inhale through the curled tongue and close your mouth to exhale through nostrils. Repeat this several times for best results.
Several studies have found Bhastrika pranayama effective in decreasing both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It should be practiced in slow pace to derive benefits for hypertension. Bhastrika pranayama helps in providing oxygen supply to all parts of the body and helps in boosting blood circulation. In Bhastrika, breath is released rapidly out and inhaled with the same speed. It helps in removing impurities out of the body.