Hatha Yoga is an activity that helps increase balance and flexibility. However, evidence from Harvard Medical School has suggested that Hatha Yoga or any of the other types of Yoga can also help to lower blood pressure significantly.
In a study, 60 people who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and associated heart issues were split into two groups. Each group then did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, followed by either 15 minutes of Yoga or 15 minutes of stretching activities.
The impact of Yoga
While both groups improved their resting blood pressure and resting heart rate, the group doing Hatha Yoga lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) by 10 points, compared to 4 points in the group who did regular stretching activities.
The group doing Yoga also saw significant reductions in their risk of a stroke or heart attack.
The Harvard study is one of many recent pieces of research into the effect of Yoga on blood pressure and the consensus is that Yoga can go some way towards lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
So why is Hatha Yoga such a powerful weapon in the battle against hypertension?
Firstly, Yoga can provide an aerobic workout, albeit much lighter than regular aerobic activities such as cycling or running. For this reason, it appeals to people who may not want to take part in more strenuous activities. It can also be a way for people to start out on a journey to increasing their exercise levels. So, for people who do not generally get much exercise, Yoga can start to make a difference to their health.
Then there is the stress reducing qualities attributed to Yoga. Meditation has been cited as a means of reducing blood pressure although the results of research are not significant enough for meditation on its own to be recommended for this purpose.
Reducing fight or flight response
A combination of Yoga and meditation can decrease activity in the nervous system, reducing the body’s flight or fight response. And a research paper released in 2018 showed that a number of genes seem to react to the relaxation response created by Yoga. These genes are linked to the immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems.
So that is the science, but for many people, the slow, relaxing movements associated with Yoga are just not enough of a workout. So should you incorporate Yoga into your regular exercise routine?
The answer is a definite yes.
Combining Yoga with more vigorous forms of exercise can deliver the perfect balance of mental and physical benefits. While vigorous exercise will help you improve cardio vascular fitness and build strength, Yoga will help you become more flexible, better balanced and increase muscle endurance. By adding Yoga to your routine, you will find you are less stiff after a hard weights session, better balanced when you go for a run and have an arsenal of movements to help your body recover when it is fatigued.
There are several ways you can combine Hatha Yoga into your routine. Join a class such as those offered at Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre. This instructor-led workout will teach the fundamentals of Yoga movement plus dispel any myths that Yoga isn’t a tough gig in its own right!
Make time for Hatha Yoga
Another way to bring Yoga into your routine is to make time for a 15-20 minute online practice at the start or end of the day. By doing this four or five times a week, you will really start to feel your breathing patterns, flexibility and balance improve.
Or, you can learn some basic Yoga poses which you perform at the end of an aerobic workout. This may be a pigeon pose, which really helps runners and cyclists to release tight hamstrings and glutes. Downward Dog is the move to stretch calves, foot arches and shoulders. A Reclining Spinal Twist stretches out the lower back and Legs up the Wall receives tension in the legs, feet, back and stretches the hamstrings and glutes.
While this article has focused on Hatha Yoga, we wish to stress that any type of Yoga can have a similar beneficial impact on health. As with all activities, if you are new to Yoga, seek advice from a qualified instructor.