Is it possible to lower your blood pressure by using yoga? Maybe, but be careful. A new study suggests that if you have high blood pressure, the best natural-based treatment for you is not yoga but something else.
Researchers recently studied all of the experimental evidence published up until 2014 regarding the effects of yoga on high blood pressure (≥140/≥90 mm Hg) and on pre-hypertension (120-139/80-89 mm Hg). They found 76 different randomized, placebo-controlled trials. The trials included 452 men and women who either had high blood pressure or pre-hypertension. All of the studies focused on the effect of blood pressure from eight weeks or more of yoga practice. Here's what they found.
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There were definitely some benefits from regular yoga practice. But in the words of the authors, "Compared with exercise, no evidence was found for the effects of yoga on systolic or diastolic blood pressure." So why take the time to do yoga when the benefits are no better than the time you could be spending exercising? Unlike yoga, exercise has other benefits like maintaining bone and muscle mass, strengthening the heart, and improving sexual function. They also noted that, "More adverse events occurred during yoga than during usual care." And I can verify this last statement by the many patients I have seen over the years who have injured themselves doing yoga. So what should you do?
Do them both! Exercise is the single best natural therapy that you can do for anything. It has been proven to lower your risk of dying from any cause. So make sure you spend at least an hour exercising three times every week of your life. The idea is to get yourself in the best possible shape you can be in. But yoga is great for stretching and calming your brain. So do a little yoga before bed every night — 10 minutes ought to do it. But be sure to get some one-on-one training (no groups) before you start doing yoga. Starting yoga from DVDs or in group classes is just asking for an injury.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Cramer H, Haller H, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2014 Sep;27(9):1146-51.