Yoga for Hypertension
The frantic pace and relentless pressure of modern society is enough to send anyones blood pressure soaring through the roof. A stressful lifestyle leaves you less time to eat properly or exercise, placing further wear and tear on the cardiovascular system.
Is it any wonder that there are millions of new cases of hypertension, or high blood pressure, reported each year in countries all over the world? Exercising for half an hour every day, eating a high fibre, low-sodium diet plus practising stress management techniques will go a long way to ease hypertension.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise and stress management all rolled into one. While there are certain postures that should be avoided by people suffering hypertension, our resident yogi Dominique says that yoga offers some wonderful practices to assist in balancing heart problems and restoring the overall wellbeing of the cardiovascular system.
The following practices are suitable for those with high blood pressure, can be performed any time and will be particularly beneficial when feeling stressed or anxious.
Vipareeta karani (vee paa ree tah, kaa raa nee.)
First, sit next to a wall with one side of the hips against it. Gently drop down onto your elbow and swing the legs against the wall. Ensure the buttocks and legs are in contact with the wall. Place the feet and legs hip-width apart and place the arms slightly away from the torso, just below the level of the shoulders. Turn the palms upwards and close the eyes. It is advisable to rest here for at least 5 minutes, breathing slowly and steadily in and out through the nose.
When you are finished, move very slowly to bring the knees into the chest and then gently roll to your right hand side. Rest here on your side for a few deep breaths and then slowly sit up.
This simple posture benefits the entire cardiovascular system. The heart is able to rest from the effect of gravity for a while. This reversal of gravity assists venous return (the return of blood to the pulmonary circulation) and can ease other vascular complaints, such as varicose veins and haemorrhoids.
Nadi shodana (nah dee, sho dha naa.)
Sit upright with the spine straight, perhaps with the support of a wall or chair. Using the right hand, block the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril, then block the left nostril using the bent index finger. Exhale slowly through the right nostril. Inhale slowly through the right nostril, and then block the right nostril and exhale slowly through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril. Block the left nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril, then inhale through the right nostril.
Continue this exercise: block, exhale, inhale, block, exhale, inhale. Ensure that the breath is smooth and that there is no pressure in the head, eyes or chest. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes, or as long as feels appropriate for you. Work gently and slowly, concentrating on the feeling of the breath moving in and out of one nostril at a time.
Alternate nasal breathing is wonderful for calming the mind and subsequently soothing the nervous and cardiovascular systems. This pranayama, or breathing exercise, can be practised any time of the day or night to soothe frayed nerves and bring relief to hypertensive symptoms.
Prevention is definitely better than a cure when it comes to hypertension. Many people who suffer from the disease are completely unaware of it because it can often be symptom-less. Better to be on the safe side; watch the diet, do your daily exercise, and take some time out when youre feeling stressed. And remember, you can get right to the heart of hypertension with good yoga practices.