Yoga combines movement, breath awareness, and mental focus.
This integrated approach to movement supports the health of the body and the mind. Some practitioners and teachers say that movement through various yoga poses makes yoga a moving meditation.
During a yoga session, each of the poses, asanas, are linked to the breath. Movement is guided with the inhales and exhales.
As the practitioner takes open poses, where they extend or lengthen the body, they inhale. When a practitioner folds or contracts the body as in standing forward fold, they exhale.
Some asanas build strength and endurance. Other asanas allow muscles to lengthen and relax.
A complete yoga practice takes the spine in all six directions, forward, up, back, bending side to side and twisting to the left and right.
A traditional yoga practice ends with complete relaxation, lying in Svasana, corpse pose, and includes breathing exercises as well as various forms of meditation.
What are the Benefits of Yoga?
Yoga exercises increase strength and flexibility. They also have a calming effect on the mind and nervous system. Yoga provides numerous health benefits.
Physical benefits associated with yoga
- Improves and maintains flexibility
- Builds muscle strength and endurance
- Elevates the heart rate (depending on the style of yoga)
- Keeps the spine supple
- Improves posture
- Increases circulation
- Maintains the cartilage and joints
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves functional fitness
- Improves blood circulation
- Boosts heart health
- And many other health benefits for the body
Mental benefits associated with yoga
- Improves depression and increases serotonin (mood nerotransimetters in the brain) levels
- Improves ability to focus and concentration
- Alleviates stress, and anxiety
- Decreases the body’s fight or flight response and
increases the relaxation response
- Builds confidence
- Fosters an increased sense of well-being
- Develops mindfulness which results in better body awareness to meet its needs
increases the relaxation response
What Is Blood Pressure?
A blood pressure reading measures the level of force exerted on the walls of the body’s blood vessels as blood passes through them.
With each beat, the heart moves blood through the blood vessels to every part of the body. A high blood pressure reading indicates the heart must work harder to do this.
Systolic and Diastolic Readings
Blood pressure readings measure two components, the systolic and diastolic readings.
Systolic and diastolic pressure references the two stages of a heartbeat. The reading is most often notated like a fraction with the systolic reading on the top and the diastolic reading on the bottom.
A blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 falls within the normal range. High blood pressure or hypertension becomes a concern when a reading exceeds this range.
The Blood Pressure Levels
1. Normal: Less than 120 over 80 (120/80)
2. Prehypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
3. Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159 over 90-99
4. Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above over 100 and above
5. High blood pressure in people over age 60: 150 and above over 90 and above
Consuquences of High Blood Pressure
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to various health problems, including:
- Damage to the heart and coronary arteries that can lead to heart attack, heart disease, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis and aortic dissection.
- Vision loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Memory loss
- Fluid in the lungs
- Kidney damage
- Peripheral artery disease
Yoga and Blood Pressure
Stress, obesity, and poor diet adversely affect blood pressure. Stress causes a consistent pattern of adrenal stimulation and increased heart rate, essentially causing the body to remain in fight or flight mode. The heart works harder raising blood pressure.
An obese person’s heart must multiply its efforts to send oxygenated blood throughout the body.
A poor diet, especially one high in processed foods, sodium, and fat contributes to hardening of the arteries. As the arteries narrow, more force is required to move blood through them, which increase probability of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and possibly heart failure.
Yoga addresses each of these issues and is recommended as a complementary therapy to manage and prevent high blood pressure.
1. The physical postures build muscle and bone density, which helps people, manage and lose weight.
2. They also allow the heart to grow stronger by improving circulation.
3. The mindfulness component allows people to build thought patterns, which lend themselves to making mindful choices across the board. According to Yoga Journal, this includes building a healthy diet.
4. Yoga also lowers blood pressure. A recent study attributes yoga’s effect on blood pressure to its mindfulness and relaxation components.
5. According to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine, yoga may provide excellent benefits to people seeking to relieve anxiety and overall improvement in their mood. Yoga eases the stress and anxiety, which contribute to depression, poor dietary choices, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Yoga provides an accessible and effective way to prevent and manage high blood pressure. In this sense, it is a complementary therapy and professional guidance is necessary.
People who have hypertension need to consult with their doctor and a knowledgeable yoga instructor before beginning a yoga program; some poses may increase blood pressure if unmodified.
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