Yoga is a cost effective and systematic approach - combining asana, meditation, relaxation techniques, chanting, mantra, nutrition, yamas and niyamas - to balance anyone’s lifestyle as well as prevent or manage conditions like hypertension, without the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Restorative yoga poses have the capacity to switch the body into the Parasympathetic state to rest, digest and repair. During the PSNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) response, cortisol - a stress hormone - begins to be removed from the bloodstream, therefore the heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Forward bends activate the renin-angiotensin system - the body’s natural system for increasing blood pressure - through absorption of sodium to raise fluid in body and therefore, blood volume. Backbends stimulate the kidneys and if the kidneys stop working then the cardiovascular system isn’t far from failing. The PSNS response also protects the kidneys from being damaged due to high levels of cortisol present in the bloodstream. Inversions (i.e. inverting the effects of gravity) allow the blood (and lymph) to more easily return to the heart for re-oxygenation as venous return relies on muscular contractions.
In the PSNS state, the hypothalamus - the ‘master’ gland that controls all other glands in the endocrine system and responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body via hormone regulation and production - can function optimally to support many processes including our sleep/wake cycles (melatonin, synthesized and secreted in the pineal gland) and balancing calcium in the blood and bone (calcitonin, produced in the parathyroid). All of these hormones travel through the bloodstream in the ‘rest and digest’ state.
Power flow increases cardiovascular function by strengthening the heart. Pranayama increases blood flow through the practice of diaphragmatic breathing. ‘Present study showed that Brahmari pranayama [humming bee breath] practice produces relaxed state and in this state parasympathetic activity overrides the sympathetic activity. It suggests that Bhramari pranayama improves the resting cardiovascular parameters in healthy adolescents.’ (1)
By Alyssa McLeod
(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27437210 (accessed 19/9/16)
Australian Natural Health Mag, Emma Palmer. 2010. Yoga for High Blood Pressure. [ONLINE] Available at: http://mokshayoga.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/14-Yoga-for-High-Blood-Pressure.pdf. [Accessed 19 September 2016].
World Heart Federation. 2016. Cardiovascular disease risk factors. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/. [Accessed 19 September 2016].