The other day in class, I was informed by one of my students that she was trying to lower her blood pressure and her doctor had suggested yoga as one of many approaches. Yea!!! I love to hear stuff like this! But I only wish YOU clients out there would tell me some of your situations before class verses after class. You can quietly tell me. Help me, help you. Oh well, at least I know now.
Anyways, this got me thinking that she is definitely not the only one out there who suffers from high blood pressure and it really isn’t something I’ve blogged as of yet. For instance, my dad is someone who has it and is trying to manage it, some of my coworkers have it, and I’m willing to bet that maybe a few of my yogi regulars have it too. It’s just that some people may know it and yet some people may not as high blood pressure is unfortunately often a “Silent Killer” and from what I’ve read it is estimated that as many as 1 in 3 American adults suffer from the condition! YIKES!!!
As you can guess, I did a little research…
NOTE: [(Systolic/Diastolic) Systolic is the measure when the heart is contracting thus pumping blood to the body. Diastolic is when the heart is relaxing and is filling with blood]. Also, if one measurement is within normal ranges, it is the first number or Systolic that is considered to be the qualifier of whether or not a reading is considered high blood pressure.
Normal Blood Pressure: Below 120/80
Mild/Prehypertension: Ranges 120-139/80-89
High Blood Pressure Stage 1: Ranges 140-159/90-99
High Blood Pressure Stage 2: 160 or higher/100 or higher
Those that have blood pressure issues should be under a doctor’s care and are likely to be exploring as well have been prescribed various prevention/management approaches such as: aerobic exercise, resistance training, breathing exercises and other biofeedback, yoga, diet, medication…
So you if were encouraged/prescribed to give Yoga a try as one of your techniques…
• Anyone who takes yoga knows or finds they are encouraged by the instructor to “LISTEN TO THEIR BODIES!” This is a big and very important message that all of us need to receive as well as regularly practice.
• Keep on top of and know your Blood Pressure readings. (See Above) The nice thing about America is that there are lots of opportunities to get a reading and usually for free. (Probably in other countries too).
o We have health fairs and Blood Pressure readings are usually a part of them.
o You can buy a blood pressure cuff at drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS, as well as Nursing Supply stores.
o There are those little blood pressure booths placed all over places like hospitals, gyms, and other public buildings.
o It is a routine part of any doctor’s appointment. Doesn’t have to be your cardiologist.
NOW WHEN YOU GO TO YOGA…EVENTUALLY YOU’LL BE PRESENTED WITH THE OPTION TO GO UPSIDE DOWN…
• Yoga Pose Cautions: Any pose that puts the body in an INVERTED position meaning having legs higher than the heart AND the heart higher than the head should be taken with caution! The higher your blood pressure, the more restrictions there are!
o Shoulder Stand, Handstand, Scorpion, and Headstand: Off limits! These are the most intense of the inversions and should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.
Better or Less Intense Inversions to Consider Instead:
o Legs Up the Wall:(Mild Inversion) Maybe/Maybe not for high blood pressure. Again, listen to your body! If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop!
o Downward-Facing Dog or Dolphin: (Mild Inversion) Maybe/Maybe not. See above.
o Bridge or Supported Bridge:(Mild Inversion) Maybe/Maybe not. See above.
Standing Forward Fold: (Mild Inversion) Maybe/Maybe not. See above.
Great all around Yoga Poses: Any lying poses that places the body horizontal either on your belly or back. When it comes to horizontal, think Savasana which is one of the best all around poses! (This is only off limits to those in their latter part of pregnancy). Just about any sitting based poses. And in case you are wondering, a lot of standing poses to include balancing won’t hurt you either. There is always a wall or partner to assist.
I didn’t go into detail as to why a person might have high blood pressure. There are a lot of contributing factors. My main concern is for you to be aware of the modifications and Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to yoga and having blood pressure concerns.
All in all, the key thing to remember is that a yoga practice or therapy is not about just one pose. It’s about the practice of a combination of poses threaded together and listening to the body. A balanced practice (suitable to the person’s level) is one that incorporates various poses with breath work and possibly meditation and finishing with Savasana. Additionally, it is better to practice often verses taking it once a week or month. Taking these approachs is quite effective!
IT’S A YOGA PRACTICE, NOT A PERFECT!