Lowering Your Blood Pressure through Yoga

I am so privileged to be a yoga instructor! What a blessing to meet so many wonderful people and enjoy the practice with them! Yesterday at the Thornton YMCA and last week at our home studio of Tranquility Yoga, we did a full hour of restorative poses to help lower blood pressure.

While I have not struggled with blood pressure issues, I have struggled with being overweight, and I have found that yoga is a great benefit in weight loss, mindful eating, and simply a terrific way to exercise.

"The exercise and weight loss that accompany regular yoga practice tends to reduce blood pressure. Yogic relaxation, in particular, appears to lower elevated blood pressure." Dr. Timothy McCall, M.D. author of Yoga as Medicine (for more info, see http://www.drmccall.com/)

Here is a synopsis of what yogic postures we enjoyed in class:

  1. We began our class with supine position in a restorative Savasana having a rolled blanket under our lower thighs just above our knees, a folded blanket under our heads, and rolled mat or blanket underneath our Achilles tendons at the back of our calves. I used the Yoga Nidra "Rotation of Consciousness" to encourage relaxation as we worked from our right side of the body to the left, bringing our attention to each body part (right thumb, right index finger,...), and consciously relaxing while inhaling and exhaling slowly through the nose.

  2. Rolling over to our right side and pressing our left hand down into the mat, we came to a seated position lifting our hips a little higher than our knees by sitting on a blanket. We did a variety of asanas to oil our joints with synovial fluid and encourage range of motion. Some of the variations were: neck circles, seated cat/cow, waist rolls, arm and shoulder stretches, even hand flapping to release tension.

  3. Coming to all fours with our shoulders over our wrists and our hips directly above our knees, the yogis and yoginis practiced Marjaryasana (cat/cow) and an extended version with one leg straightened, heel pushing away, and then knee bending, alternating sides. Puppy dog pose (Uttana Shishosana) was our next posture as we lifted our hips and moved our hearts toward the mats with elbows stretching forward - hands behind our heads. We returned to all fours and used Balasana (extended child's pose) to check out our breathing as we never want to sacrifice our breath in any yoga posture.

  4. Bringing our right foot forward, we continued stretching and invigorating with a kneeling lunge (Anjaneyasana) to lengthen our hip flexors and then brought our front heel stretching forward to elongate our hamstrings. Afterwards, we changed to the left foot and came to a standing position by forward folding - walking our hands up our shins/thighs allowing our head and neck to be last to roll up.

  5. Once in a standing position, our practice continued with Warrior I, Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch with blocks), Warrior II, Trikonasana also with a block (triangle pose), and a standing balancing pose against the wall - Vrksasana.

  6. Continuing at the wall, we did a series of downward facing dog poses starting with Adho Mukha Svanasana - half down dog walking our hands down the wall, using blocks against the wall as we faced it and placing our hands on the blocks walking our feet back, and then our heels against the wall as we walked our hands forward.

  7. Ending our blissful hour of yoga, the students came into a restorative pose once again, but this time it was incorporating the blankets with Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall). We stretched again using Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) with heels together against the wall, Upavistha Konasana (wide legged pose), and Janu Sirsasana with one heel in and the other extended. Everyone was encouraged to find their unique position to enjoy our final 5 minutes of class with legs straight up the wall or one of the above mentioned positions.

If you would like to have more information on any of the yoga postures that I have listed, please go to http://www.yogajournal.com/ and look under the "poses" column to find detailed information on how to correctly align your body to find the maximum benefit. I hope that this practice for lowering blood pressure will be beneficial to you. Namaste'


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