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Can Yoga Help Treat High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects millions of people around the world, including over 30 percent of American adults. Often referred to as “the silent killer” for its tendency to wreak havoc on the body without producing symptoms, hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease and a leading cause of stroke. If you have any concerns, get checked by your doctor. There likely won’t be any other way of knowing if you’re at risk.

This pervasive and dangerous condition is at the heart of today’s episode of Urban Yogis on The Chopra Well YouTube channel. Ashtanga yoga instructor Eddie Stern has teamed up with fellow instructor Blake Seidenshaw and physical therapy professor Marshall Hagins at Long Island University (LIU) to conduct a study on the effects of yoga on patients suffering from hypertension. As of yet, yoga has not definitively been proven to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure, on its own, though evidence does suggest it may lower blood pressure by reducing stress and increasing flexibility and weight loss. Stern, Seidenshaw, and Hagins came together in the hope of finding clear, consistent evidence to prove what, until now, most yoga practitioners only felt and observed in their own lives without the authority of science to support them. That isn’t to say anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry its own weight – there’s a reason over 20 million people in the United States have practiced yoga.

If science comes to support what practitioners have felt for decades, it could have a major impact on our health. So many of Eddie’s students, like the patients at LIU, have already noticed the positive effects. Likely it has something to do with lifestyle. Though the cause of hypertension remains undetermined, the condition is often associated with lack of exercise, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and a diet high in saturated fat and salt. Chronic stress also contributes to hypertension, which may be unwelcome news to people with high-intensity, fast-paced lifestyles.

During stressful situations blood pressure spikes, returning to its normal level after the experience passes. People who are constantly stressed, though, may be at a greater risk of raising their blood pressure in the long-run, especially if they tend to smoke, overeat, or exercise less when they are under a lot of stress. As Eddie’s students can attest to, yoga steps in to provide the tools for self-soothing and mindfulness, so critical to stress-reduction. Hopefully in the near future we’ll know even more about the amazing medical and emotional benefits of a regular yoga practice. But until then, we’ll take the smiles and calm, glowing faces as proof enough.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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34 comments

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4:35AM PST on Jan 20, 2013

"Though the cause of hypertension remains undetermined, the condition is often associated with lack of exercise, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and a diet high in saturated fat and salt. Chronic stress also contributes to hypertension, which may be unwelcome news to people with high-intensity, fast-paced lifestyles."

and through doing yoga, you start doing exercise, which can help with weight loss, it may encourage you to make other lifestyle changes through mindfulness and becomes a way of dealing with stress. all in all, it WILL help you to lower your blood pressure, as it is a tool you can use alongside lifestyle changes and mindfulness.

i have high blood pressure and find that yoga has not only helped me with it, but has opened doors to other exercise, allowed me to change my diet, my mental health about my long term health conditions and just how to live life as it was intended

8:36AM PST on Dec 21, 2012

Can Yoga Help Treat High Blood Pressure? DUH! I slowly deep breathe and imagine my heart beat slowing down before my bp is taken and drop points off.

8:35AM PST on Dec 7, 2012

Very interesting.

1:16AM PST on Dec 7, 2012

... it is soooooo good for stress, blood pressure and rebalancing body. people in very high risk .... should also make healthful changes if they want to avoid medication - or sickness - combined with yoga : )))

8:36AM PST on Dec 6, 2012

As a teenage school boy I found the ups and downs in mood to be too fast too graph as hormones raged. I had read in a newspaper that hospitals in the UK were painted green because it had been found that this colour relaxed the patients. I thought it would be a great idea to stare at a piece of green paper in order to relax myself, but green cardboard from the stationery shop had no effect. Undeterred, I tried other colours and came upon one which did relax me. I then set about testing the colours of the rainbow in the stationery shop on other people that were stressed and found that everyone has a colour of cardboard that has a soporific affect. The Tension Sheet was born. I soon carried out a test on those with high blood pressure, and found that The Tension Sheet reduced the blood pressure to lower than normal figures in just minutes and recommend that a tension sheet is carried at all times, and that a chill-out room should be painted in the right colour in every tension sufferers home. It is certainly easier to stare at a correctly coloured piece of cardboard or wall for a few minutes than the interference with breathing patterns that most mediation involves. And it has better results. The Tension Sheet was also the first treatment I invented for mental illness and cured several homeless people with it in my school town. Both their own Doctors and local Clergy verified that they were cured. The mechanism for the cure is probably that the brain is relaxed by the Tension Sh

6:59AM PST on Dec 6, 2012

I'm 50 and have high blood pressure and I practice Astanga yoga 2-3 times a week. I don't have any of the risk factors... lack of exercise, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, a diet high in saturated fat and salt or chronic stress. It's hereditary and I take a low dose of medication to control it. I do believe that my healthy lifestyle has enabled me to stay at the same dose of medication for the past 6 1/2 years and would encourage anyone and everyone to practice yoga. It's amazing!!

12:58AM PST on Dec 6, 2012

I am a Yoga therapist from India. I had a client in his 30s suffering from high BP. I used subtle Asanas (postures) and the Pranayamas (breathing practices). The persons BP without the medication would go up to 200 systolic and 120 diastolic. After doing yoga almost everyday for 3 months, his figures ( without medication) read 160/105. So I can say with surety that with regularity and right practices we can bring down BP using Yogic techniques.

10:28PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

I supposed ANY kind of exercise will be beneficial to health, not just high blood pressure.

10:19PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

thanks

9:41PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

Deep breathing to relax and stretching are important everyday. I do believe this lowers BP

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