Of all the important numbers you have locked away in your head, is your blood pressure one of them? Here’s a reason to ask your doctor to write it down for you at your next visit: According to recent estimates, about one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of them don’t even know it, reports the American Heart Association.
Left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or kidney failure. While high BP can be caused by diabetes, kidney problems, or genetics, it could simply be day-to-day issues such as stress, weight gain, inactivity, or smoking that makes your BP soar.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to keep your BP within a healthy range, including starting a Yoga practice. In fact, Baxter Bell, M.D., a medical acupuncturist and registered Yoga instructor in Oakland, California, says he has many students in his class who find their mat time helps reduce their high blood pressure by helping them better manage their stress and by helping them stay active.
In class, Dr. Bell makes sure to offer special modifications for those students with high BP. He recommends trying standing positions but avoiding poses in which your head is lower than your heart, because the latter can actually increase BP. When the rest of your body is above your heart, as in inverted poses like Downward Dog, blood rushes to your heart and head, causing BP to increase. This can be dangerous for people with high BP, especially if BP remains elevated for an extended period of time. “The important thing is to start off slow and choose a very gentle form of Yoga,” advises Bell. “So you’ll want to find a teacher who has worked with students who have high BP.” His picks for pressure-lowering poses:
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, focus on going into and out of standing positions while keeping your heart lifted to help keep your BP stable. Also, note that holding positions for longer periods of time can be more taxing on the body and elevate BP.
Warrior I to Warrior II
Warrior I flow: Stand with your feet 4 to 4-1/2 feet apart. On an exhale, turn your left foot out 90 degrees, and then turn your right foot in towards the left until it’s at a 45-degree to 60-degree angle. On an inhale, sweep your arms overhead, keeping them parallel, while at the same time bending your left knee over your front ankle. On an exhale, straighten your front leg and lower your arms to your sides. Repeat this flow six times. Then, switch legs and repeat on opposite side. Make sure to take smooth, easy breaths throughout, never holding your breath.
Warrior II flow: Stand with your feet about 4 to 4-1/2 apart. On an exhale, turn your left foot out 90 degrees, and then turn your right foot in towards the left until it’s at a 25 degree angle, keeping your arms relaxed by your sides. On an inhale, sweep your arms out over your legs at shoulder height, while at the same time bending your left knee over your left ankle. On an exhale, straighten your front leg and lower your arms to your sides. Repeat this flow six times. Then, switch legs and repeat on the opposite side. Make sure to take smooth, easy breaths throughout, never holding your breath.
Five-Pointed Star (Standing Starfish) to Standing Goddess Squat
From Mountain, inhale, and on an exhale step your feet about 3 feet apart, turning both feet out about 30 degrees. On an inhale, bring your arms out to either side at shoulder height, parallel to the floor. On an exhale, bend your knees in the direction of your toes until your knees are over your ankles in a partial squat. At the same time, bend your arms at your elbows, with fingertips pointing to the sky, palms facing each other. On an inhale, straighten your legs and arms into Five-Pointed Star. Repeat this flow six times, at a slow, smooth pace.
Source: Written by Ana Mantica, Reprinted from iYoga Life