High blood pressure is a dangerous medical condition that leaves you at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke.
Yoga for high blood pressure can be an effective tool for managing this condition. We’ll help you understand more about how to do this in this article.
In this article, learn:
- What is high blood pressure?
- What is yoga for high blood pressure & how does it help?
- Yoga poses to avoid if you have high blood pressure
- 9 best yoga poses for high blood pressure
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is when your body cannot properly maintain your blood pressure.
Blood pressure naturally fluctuates. It will lower when at rest and increase while you are active, but it should stay within a normal limit. Your body maintains this limit through baroreceptors in the walls of the blood vessels and the heart.
These measure pressure and send information to the nervous system so it can actively balance pressure by doing things such as contracting the blood vessel walls or altering kidney function.
High blood pressure often occurs when these baroreceptors are not functioning properly.
According to the American Heart Association, 46% of Americans have high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, obesity, smoking, and stress.
While doctors will prescribe medication to manage blood pressure, they will also recommend lifestyle changes, including yoga for high blood pressure.
Yoga for High Blood Pressure: Benefits & how it can help
A 2019 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that people with high blood pressure who did an hour of yoga five times a week for 13 weeks had a significant reduction in their blood pressure.Why?
Yoga breathing and certain yoga asanas improve blood circulation and reduce stress, both of which improve blood pressure by making baroreceptors more sensitive, therefore allowing the body to respond to changes in blood pressure more quickly.
If you are starting a new yoga for high blood pressure practice, start with slow flows, as highly active yoga can increase your blood pressure.
Remember that more important than the postures themselves is the yogic breathing of slow, controlled, and even inhales and exhales, as this has the greatest effect on blood pressure.
In addition to traditional yoga flows, you can also engage in breathwork sessions for a similar positive impact. Alternate nostril breathing techniques, such as anulom-vilom and bhramari, are believed to have the greatest benefit for blood pressure.
Poses to avoid With High Blood Pressure
There are also a few yoga poses that you should avoid if you have high blood pressure.
These are mostly inversions where the heart is above the head for an extended period of time. This requires your heart to pump against gravity, which can again spike blood pressure.
Other poses you might have to avoid include some standing poses and backbends, depending on the severity of your condition. Check with your doctor before doing yoga poses for high blood pressure.
9 Yoga Poses For High Blood Pressure
1. Hero Pose (Virasana)
The main benefit of yoga for high blood pressure is maintaining sustained, slow, and deep breathing.
Therefore, it is important to spend a few minutes at the start of your practice connecting with your breath. You can use virasana.
- Sit with your knees forward with your feet slightly open so that you can sit on the ground.
- If this is uncomfortable, place a block under your seat. Lift up through your spine and rest your hands on your knees.
- Focus on establishing a slow breath with even inhales and exhales.
- Stay in the position for five to ten breaths as an effective yoga for high blood pressure.
If you struggle with virasana for any reason, you could use vajrasana.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Facing Dog won’t immediately lower your blood pressure, but it is one of the safest yoga inversions for high blood pressure.
The position strengthens muscles and improves heart function, which will improve circulation and lower blood pressure in the long term.
Downward Facing Dog is included in many sun salutations and flows or can be a standalone asana.
- To enter the pose, start on your hands and knees in tabletop position.
- Press your palms into the ground and lift your hips up to create an upside-down V shape.
- Keep your shoulders back and away from your ears and your arms straight.
- Straighten your legs pushing your heels towards the ground as far as is accessible.
- Pull your navel in and push your chest towards your thighs.
- Include downward dog in your yoga for high blood pressure flow, or hold the position for five breaths before returning to tabletop position.
You can explore downward dog alternatives here.
3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose opens your lungs and heart and can promote heart health by increasing blood and oxygen circulation. This yoga for high blood pressure position is also good for promoting digestion, relieving stress and anxiety, and strengthening back muscles to relieve back pain.
Cobra pose is another asana included in sun salutations and flows, but can also be a standalone asana.
- To enter the position, lie flat on your mat with your feet hip-width apart and the tops of your feet lying on the mat.
- Place your forehead on the mat, and your palms face down on the mat under your shoulders.
- Inhale and straighten your arms as much as possible to lift your chest up off the floor. Keep your pelvis on the floor and tuck your tailbone towards your navel.
- Either lift up and hold for five deep breaths, or create a flow, lifting as you inhale and lowering back to the mat as you exhale.
4. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
This seated butterfly position opens the hips, extends the spine, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system to enhance calmness and reduce stress.
This yoga for high blood pressure position also activates the kidney meridian, which promotes healthy metabolism and improves immunity.
- Find a comfortable seated position on your sit bones with your back straight. If this is uncomfortable, place a block, pillow, or folded towel under your sit bones.
- Bring your feet together as close to your pelvis as is comfortable and let your knees drop outwards.
- Start by flapping your knees up and down for a count of 20, and then try to push your knees down to the ground using your muscles for a few seconds.
- Release this tension and let your knees fall to the level dictated by gravity.
- Bend your chest down towards your feet as far as is comfortable.
- Stay in this position for five breaths.
5. Seated Forward Fold Pose (Paschimottanasana)
This fundamental posterior stretch pose activates the Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus Chakras, stimulating all the energy centers down the spine, including around the heart.
- To get into the pose sit on the ground, again on a boost if needed, and stretch your legs out in front of you along the ground.
- Bend forward from the hips and take hold of the toes, or wherever you cannot reach.
- Reach your forehead down towards your knees.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and evenly in this pose.
- With every exhale, try to sink a little further into the forward fold.
- Hold for five breaths before slowly rolling back up to a seated position.
6. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy baby pose is a great hip opener and an emotional balancer that encourages the release of serotonin and dopamine, which can help maintain blood pressure.
- Lie flat on your back and bring your knees in towards your chest.
- Take hold of your toes with each hand, and keeping your spine flat against the floor, push your feet up and away, opening your bent knees about 90 degrees.
- Use your hands to pull your knees down towards the floor.
- Stay in this yoga pose for one or two minutes, and you can rock on your back if that feels comfortable.
7. Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
This is another yoga for high blood pressure inversion pose that is relatively safe for anyone with high blood pressure.
The position improves circulation, plus it relaxes the nervous system, improves the respiratory system, and improves sleep.
- Sit next to the wall with your hip touching the wall. You can then roll down onto the floor with your back on the ground and your legs extended up the wall.
- Allow your arms to lie relaxed beside your body, and try to keep your legs relaxed rather than actively holding them up.
- Stay in the position for ten breaths, and then come out of the pose and relax in a fetal position on your side. You can then enter the position again and repeat four to six times.
8. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a restful yoga for high blood pressure pose and can be used throughout your practice to get a moment of rest. This pose unclenches tense muscles which improves blood circulation and has a calming effect.
- Begin on all fours with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hands.
- Lower your hips down and backward so that they are resting on your heels.
- Bend your torso forward and rest your forehead on the floor. You can spread your knees to get your chest closer to the ground if comfortable.
- Stay for five breaths if you are taking a break, or sit in the position for five minutes while focusing on your breathing.
9. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
You should always end your yoga for high blood pressure practice in Savasana, as this restful pose gives your body the opportunity to integrate the changes you have made during your practice.
The relaxation of the body and mind in Savasana can lower blood pressure.
- Lie on your back and let your arms and legs fall away from the centerline of your body.
- There should be space between your upper arms and your torso and your hands should be facing upward.
- Relax by mentally scanning your body and releasing tension in different areas. Focus on deep breathing.
- Stay in Savasana for at least five minutes.
- When you are ready to come out, start bringing life back into your body by wiggling your toes, then your ankles, and working your way up the body. You can then roll onto your side and push yourself up to a seated position.
Concluding Thoughts and Tips
Yoga can be a highly effective way to help manage high blood pressure.
Yogic breathing and certain yoga asanas lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and improve the performance of baroreceptors which are essential for maintaining blood pressure levels.
Starting a practice of slow yoga that incorporates yoga poses for high blood pressure can be an effective way to improve your health.
Just remember to avoid intense inversions and to maintain your yogic breath throughout your practice.