What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure (BP) is the term for an essential function of the body in which, as the heart alternately pumps and relaxes, the blood in the arteries exerts a force on the artery walls.
You’ve probably seen it written as a combination of two numbers: your systolic score written above your diastolic score. The systolic number measures your blood pressure while the heart pumps blood and the diastolic between beats.
If the blood vessels are not relaxing normally and if there are blockages in the arterioles, it can lead to an increase in blood pressure. This is what’s termed high blood pressure.
The Risks Involved
Though BP normally varies through the day — being higher while at work and lowest when a person is sleeping — older persons and those with undetected or neglected stress levels are at greater risk for high BP. This can also be a risk factor for many chronic diseases like:
- Heart failure or angina pectoris
- Stroke (especially at the time of waking)
- Hardening of the arteries
- Enlarged heart muscles
- Kidney damage and endocrine gland malfunction
Hypertension – The Silent Killer
The most commonly occurring type of high BP is hypertension, known as the “silent killer” because it gives no overt symptoms/indications. It has numerous causes depending on the individual’s constitution, health condition and lifestyle. Stress, lowered immunity, poor nutrition/digestion, hardening of arteries and obesity are some of the other factors that contribute to high BP.
Symptoms of High BP
High BP is normally not easy to detect, nor is its high-end variation, hypertension. Consult your healthcare professional at the earliest if you notice the following symptoms:
- Dizziness/light-headedness and tiredness
- Heart pain, breathing problems, palpitations
- Sound in the ears
- Headaches, ache in the neck on waking that generally subside quickly
- Frequent urination
- Dull vision
Why Yoga for High BP?
Yoga asanas are recognized to be beneficial because of certain asanas:
- Create an alpha brain wave state that actually lowers blood pressure.
- Bring balance to the autonomous nervous system and stabilize the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems
- Enhance circulation to all parts of the body and oxygenate the blood, enhancing alertness and cognitive skills while reducing stress and tension
- Promote therapeutic “side–benefits” like increased strength, flexibility, calmness of mind
- Address the problems of shallow breathing and increased heart rate
- Channel the life-force or prana into all parts of the body, assisting the body to heal itself
Some Recommended Yogasanas
Sitting and supine positions that place the spine in a horizontal position and exert less strain on the heart can be therapeutic. Depending on your condition, the following asanas can be considered:
- Bhramari pranayama
- Setu Bandhasana
- A variation of Pawanmuktasana (circular movements with knees - don't lift the head up)
- Makarasana with Bhramari pranayama
- Practice yoga asanas only after consulting your healthcare professional and a qualified yoga therapist.
- Asanas that invert the body i.e. - where the head is below the body - are to be avoided. Discuss your medication and diet regime with your doctor and teacher
- Once you have started a yoga practice, careful monitoring of medication levels by your doctor is crucial
- Gently close your eyes during yoga, rest a few breaths after each pose, and do not over-exert yourself
- Follow the recommended inhalation/exhalation pattern for each asana
- A few gentle warm-up exercises before the asanas, and resting in Shavasana (Corpse Pose) after the yoga routine, is essential
Eat Right, Exercise Right
Supplement your yoga practice with these simple, multi-therapeutic lifestyle changes:
- Shake your head - at the salt-shaker! Learn to use lemon, low-fat yoghurt, unusual spices and herbs as substitute taste-givers and enhancers. And remove those pickles from the dining table! Opt for healthier low-salt chutneys and salads
- Vegetables and fruits rich in potassium and magnesium like ladyfingers, black beans, pumpkin seeds and spinach can help in lowering BP
- Eat natural: avoid canned, packaged, frozen and restaurant foods
- No smoking, limit alcohol intake
- Do try herbal teas and fruit drinks like pomegranate juice, tulsi tea
- Consult your doctor for recommended levels of fat/oil intake and monitor your weight
- Discuss with your doctor the type and level of daily exercise that is best for you
- Incorporate meditation, pranayama and learn the art of letting go
Ayurveda – The Healthy Lifestyle Alternative
Ayurveda is an ancient science focused on living a healthy life by adopting a healthy lifestyle. It is a natural alternative to allopathic medicines and is also free from any side effects. Adopting Ayurveda along with yoga can help keep a check on your blood pressure levels and with time, normalize it for good.
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