Yoga for High Blood Pressure
You never worry about your heart health until you're told that your numbers are too high. In a recent blog post I read from Baxter Bell, MD a reknown yoga teacher, I got to thinking more about my heart health and focusing on the negative conditions that impact it.
We give only lip service to how devastating chronic stress can be to the health of our circulatory system. Working in toxic and stressful conditions can be a recipe for heart diseases such as high blood pressure. Some might argue that the solution is to leave those conditions, but I argue that conditions are the same and the context alone changes.
Chronic stress makes the body respond as if it is being chased by a large black bear for 15 minutes. Ykes! Kill that visual. The flight-or-fight reaction shifts the body to the autonomic nervous system response. "When stress levels are high or as a result of a gradual increase in blood pressure over time, the smooth muscle layer that surrounds the arteries and a thinner layer that is found in veins tends to contract and narrow the diameter of the blood vessels. This means the heart muscle has to work harder and harder to pump blood through the narrowed blood vessels. If this state of affairs goes unchanged, it can eventually lead to failure of the heart to pump properly for good." (Baxter Bell, 2014).
So how can yoga help high blood pressure? With advice from your doctor and the go ahead to practice,
find a teacher that can help you with a practice/poses for your specific condition. Try gentle sequences, restorative sequences, easy inversions, mindful meditations. Avoid inversions that create a surge in blood pressure, as well as poses that raise the heart rate such as warrior series.
The more regular we use yoga to manage our stress, the more likely we are to see positive results.