High blood pressure affects one in three people in the US? This is serious. There is a greater risk of heart failure, stroke and even kidney disease. It’s important to make life-style changes reducing stress and incorporating regular modified yoga postures to help reduce the risk.
Reducing High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you must take it seriously. While there is much that can be done to improve your health and well-being, regular checks on your blood pressure are paramount. With guidance and some lifestyle changes such as diet modification, increased exercise, and stress management techniques, you may reverse these risks.
There’s no doubt about it. Stress is deadly. It is a huge contributor to high blood pressure and so steps must be taken to analyze stress triggers on a daily basis so that you can reduce it where possible. Too much stress is disastrous at the best of times and left unchecked, it can lead towards many serious health conditions. Even the first symptoms of stress are unpleasant with headaches, intense fatigue and even palpitations affecting health while increasing anxiousness. Stress can most certainly increase blood pressure in the short term.
When you are stressed, blood vessels constrict and your heart rate increases. Usually, once the stress has diminished, the stress response will dissipate. This is known as situational stress. It is highly damaging to be exposed to stress on a regular basis. Many people are under tremendous pressure and do not realize the damage they are doing to their health. When you feel under pressure, your body is flooded with stress hormones and so, the problems that create these stress responses should be eradicated ideally. Unfortunately, when health starts to suffer as a result, fatigue can be overwhelming and so, often, stress triggers are ignored.
The Stress Response
How we deal with stress is important. Many people fail to deal with it at all. They take the ‘head in the sand’ approach but stress does not just go away. It is important to monitor stressors on a daily basis so we can tell if it becomes chronic. When stress becomes chronic (constant) the effects on the body and on the mind are unbelievable. While the links between stress levels and high blood pressure are still being studied, it makes sense to reduce stress on a daily basis. Yoga can do this by creating the right environment for deep relaxation. If you utilize relaxation techniques regularly, you will reduce the activity of the nervous system and will increase well-being. This is as a result of reducing stress hormones.
Understanding That You Cannot Change Some Things
Acceptance of problems that are out of your control is one way of letting go of stress. It’s true, some things cannot be changed. Only you can change your response to these stressors and that is important. By doing so, this can help to reduce the negative effects of stress on you. You must identify your stress triggers and try to avoid them where possible.
If you have high blood pressure, there will be many reasons why this has happened. There may be a history of blood pressure problems in the family or you may have not been looking after your diet or health in general. Improving diet, taking more exercise, and giving up smoking will all help. Add these changes to a plan to reduce stress and anxiety and health will start to improve.
Conscious breathing can help to lower blood pressure and abdominal breathing (belly breathing) can certainly be effective. When you use breathing exercises, it increases your focus but takes it away from any problems. It will also be greatly relaxing. Monitor the timing carefully.
Lie down and place one hand on your abdomen and place the other hand on your chest. This is so you can monitor the progression of the breath as you inhale and exhale. When ready, inhale through the nostrils. At this point, the hand on your abdomen should start to move as your lungs fill. Hold the breath for 7 seconds then breathe out slowly. Repeat between 5 to 10 times. Do this every time you feel under pressure and your stress response activates. This will help to defuse any inner stress and even calm negative emotions.
Regular practice of yoga can help to reduce stress-related blood pressure. Along with lifestyle changes and medical advice, yoga calms the sympathetic nervous system. It does this by teaching you to relax and when you embrace deep, relaxation techniques, both the muscles of the body and the mind relaxes completely.
Yoga will naturally help to balance the nervous system, however, some postures have a greater positive impact on high blood pressure than others. Any of the forward bend poses will help to increase calmness but it’s important to modify postures to suit you. They also soften the neck and this affects the carotid artery, helping to reduce blood pressure.
Avoid any postures that compress the diaphragm as this will increase blood pressure. Also, avoid unsupported inversions. In fact, disregard those postures which place pressure on the throat or that restricts breathing.
When performing these yoga postures, take care to move slowly in and out of the poses. If you are new to yoga, make sure you mirror alignment. It can help to attend a yoga class but do make sure the teacher is aware of your high blood pressure. Note, you should not feel dizzy or hot. If you do, stop the pose and then, immediately rest in a child’s pose. It’s important to also utilize the corpse pose (savasana) at the end of the session so you can contemplate how your body feels and also quieten the mind.
Head to Knee (Janusirsana)
Use a blanket under the buttocks and stretch the chest towards the feet to elongate the spine. Use a strap if necessary to pull yourself towards the feet. It is important that you do not feel a compression in the diaphragm, so make sure to place pillows for support along the extended leg. Rest in this position feeling the spinal stretch and repeat with the other leg forward.
Modified Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Use a bolster to help you in this supported posture. It can help if you use a strap to keep the thighs together. Lie back and slide your shoulders off the bolster or pillow so they are just on the floor. Extend the legs out straight. Rest in this modified position stretching out the spine while opening the chest. This is a nurturing posture.
Supported Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
With this version o the downward dog, place three or four blankets or pillows underneath the chest and then lift through your arms and straighten out the legs so that you adopt the usual posture. Support your head on the blankets. Add more if necessary. Do not bend the elbows. Hold for a minute or two, if able, and then relax into the child’s pose (balasana). It’s a good idea to have the legs apart in the child pose and support the head on the floor.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Sit tall, place a cushion under the buttocks if necessary and bring the legs in so that the feet are together. If there is stiffness in the hips and knees- which is common, place folded blankets beneath the thighs as a support. Hold the big toes and draw the feet towards you.
Camel pose has restrictions for high blood pressure, but it can be modified. Care should be taken not to constrict the throat at all. This means keep the jaw pointing up towards the ceiling. Bring the hands to the back of the hips and push the hips forward. Repeat.
Modified Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
The standing forward bend is a useful posture for helping to reduce high blood pressure. Again, modify the full posture. Your head must be fully supported. Place sufficient number of folded blankets beneath the head and try to relax the neck and shoulders while stretching out the spine. If the diaphragm feels constricted, reduce the stretch.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie flat on the yoga mat. Arms must be stretched out to the sides, palms up. Have legs apart and with feet and ankles relaxed. Remain in this posture for a few minutes so to contemplate the session. Focus on your breath and perform a whole-body scan eradicating muscular tension where necessary.Practice these postures regularly but do pay attention to the restorative aspects of your session. Gradually add postures into the session. Always modify them as in the examples here. Couple yoga with relaxation techniques and adopt some healthy lifestyle changes so that you can nurture yourself. It’s important to take a holistic approach to health, letting go of daily stresses and strains. Focus on a nutritious diet; increase exercise and reduce stress. This will all help to reduce high blood pressure but do have regular check-ups with your doctor.
Research indicates that yoga can have a favorable effect on high blood pressure, easing it and so there’s never been a better time than to try yoga for yourself. Listen to your body throughout and respond instinctively, your body will guide you if you try to stretch too much.