If you struggle with high blood pressure, you’ve probably been advised to try yoga – with good reason. Yoga is one of the most therapeutic and safe exercises that can be done by those with hypertension. But before you register for the next available yoga class close to you, we want to advise you to proceed with caution. Despite all its benefits, not all poses are high blood pressure safe. In this article, we are going to outline which yoga poses to avoid for those with high blood pressure. Being aware of such poses can help you avoid a disaster while in class. If you are using a personal yoga instructor/trainer, letting them know about this could also help them structure the class in a way that fits your concerns.
What Is Yoga And How Does It Help With High Blood Pressure?
Is yoga bad for high blood pressure? Yes and no. But before getting into all this, let us first understand what this is and how it works.
Yoga is a mind and body therapy practice that falls in the same category as some age-old practices such as Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation. The roots of this practice can be traced back to India where many ancestors of today’s modern-day Indians used it for spirituality.
Today, the practice has grown in popularity past India’s borders, where now in the West it is used to help promote physical and mental well-being. This is done through the combination of yoga’s gentle movements with controlled, focused breathing and meditation (7, 14).
So how does it benefit people with high blood pressure? That is due to two reasons:
- It is a gentle exercise – If you have ever watched people doing yoga, either in real life or online, then you have noticed how gentle and fluid their movements are. This fluidity and gentleness is what makes this practice almost perfect for people with HBP because you are not overexerting yourself which spikes your heart rate. In fact, this fact was stated in a study published in 2016 where the research referred to Hatha yoga as a mostly light-intensity form of calorie-burning aerobic exercise (2).
- It’s a great way to reduce stress – The meditation part of the practice is what’s to thank for this benefit. Several studies have shown that not only does meditation help reduce stress but it also soothes your nervous system and helps you relax (4, 11, 8).
Yoga For High Blood Pressure: Which Is The Best Position To Lower Blood Pressure?
If we have convinced you to try out this mind and body therapy, here are the best poses for anyone suffering from hypertension. These poses are not only likely to help reduce your blood pressure but they are also very safe
Balsana aka Child’s pose
This pose is said to not only help with calm and relaxation but to also improve circulation within the body. Physically the child’s pose also helps you open and lengthen the hips and spine. Here is how to do it:
- Begin by getting on your hands and knees on a soft but firm surface. Bring your big toes to touch and widen your legs slightly wider than hip-distance.
- Exhale and slowly sit back on your knees. Your torso should be erect and between your knees and your palms should rest at the top of your thighs.
- On another exhale, slowly lower your torso between your knees. Make sure that your outer ribs are resting comfortably on your inner thighs.
- In relation to your arms you can either extend them back alongside your torso with your palms facing down or push them forward far beyond your head on the ground with palms facing down.
- Be sure to tuck your chin in slightly to lengthen the back of your neck and rest your forehead on the floor.
- With each inhale, feel your ribcage expand out to your thighs, and with each exhale, let your body relax toward the floor. Sink into the position as much as you can.
- Hold this position for as long as you can – anywhere from one to three minutes.
Quick facts to note:
- If you cannot get your forehead all the way to the ground, use a thin pillow to support your head.
- If you’re having trouble getting your bum to reach your heels, place a rolled up blanket between your thighs and calves.
Viparita Karani aka Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
Other than helping you relax and calm down, this pose is also said to stretch your hamstrings, glutes, pelvis, as well as the muscles supporting the spine and hips. Here is how to do it as a beginner:
- Begin by laying on your side on the floor – one side of your body, either the right or left side should be perpendicular to the wall with bum touching the wall.
- Slowly lower your shoulders and head to the floor, and lie on your back. As you roll onto your back, stretch your legs up on the wall.
- Ideally at this point your feet should be hip-distance apart but place them at whichever distance that feels most comfortable to you.
- Adjust your position and make sure that your lower body from the hips to the feet is in a straight line
- Keep your arms up and comfortable on either side of your head and just breathe releasing everything and all stresses.
- Stay in this position for up to 3 minutes (or longer depending on how you feel before bending your knees and rolling to your side to get up.
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Savasana aka Corpse Pose
Simply lying down can help to quickly lower your blood pressure:
- Begin by lying down on your back with your legs straight and your arms resting alongside your body.
- Tuck your shoulder blades underneath you and draw your chin in slightly.
- Allow your legs and feet to relax and turn out. This allows you to feel the entire length of your spine relaxing along the floor.
You can stay in this position as long as you like. According to Yoga Journal, however, you should aim to stay like this for up to 20 minutes as this allows your body and mind to fully relax.
Baddha Konasana aka Bound Angle Pose
This is the post mostly used during most meditations. It helps boost your circulation and open up your hips:
- Take a seat on the ground with your legs straight.
- Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together allowing your knees to fall open.
- Your hands can rest on the floor behind you to provide support for your spine, or gently hold your feet. With an inhale, lengthen the spine, reaching up through the crown of your head.
- Slide your shoulder blades down and lengthen the back of your neck.
- Stay for 3 to 5 breaths, feeling each inhale expand the ribs outward.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana aka Bridge Pose
This pose is said to help relieve hip and lower back aches while strengthening your core, hamstrings and glutes:
- Lie on your back in the center of your mat, your knees bent, with the legs and feet parallel and hip-distance apart.
- Move your feet closer to your buttocks and press down firmly through both of your feet. Inhale as you raise your hips. Be sure to lift from the pubic bone rather than the navel.
- You have two options on what to do with your hands. Either clasp them under your back or leave them on either side of you on the floor.
- Broaden your collarbones and get on top of your shoulders. This helps support your upper body while is this position.
- Firm the outer shins and roll your upper thighs inward. Press down firmly through your heels and lift the back of your thighs and the bottom of your buttocks even higher while keeping the thighs parallel.
- To finish, exhale, release your hands, and lower to the floor. Allow your back to rest in a neutral state as you observe the spaciousness within your chest.
Other positions that are good for high blood pressure include seated forward bend, hero and reclining hero pose, reclining hand-to-big-toe pose and head-to-knee pose, among others (13).
Which Poses Are Not Good For High Blood Pressure?
Now that you know the best yoga positions for blood pressure, which positions should you avoid at all costs? As previously mentioned, yoga – for the most part – is a gentle practice that is highly recommended to all persons living with HBP. However, some poses should be avoided at all costs if you have hypertension.
If your routine calls for positions that involve back bends, inversions or head poses then you should absolutely not take part. Pick a routine that doesn’t have such poses or replace them with something safer. According to Healthline, standing poses are also not the best for hypertension. Head poses are specifically highly discouraged as they place the head right under the heart making all the blood rush to your head.
Examples of such poses include the headstand, forearm shoulder stand, backbends, plow, wheel, and fish pose, standing forward bend, etc.
What Are Some Tricks To Lower Blood Pressure Instantly?
Those who live with high blood pressure know just how bad the symptoms of rising pressure can be. From the sudden fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, headache, palpitations or irregular heart beats, confusion, etc. It is a tedious and frustrating situation to have to deal with everyday, if not multiple times a day.
Figuring out how to lower your blood pressure (HBP) instantly can be a game changer that will change your life, certainly for the better? But can it be done? Unfortunately, no. High blood pressure is not like a switch that you can turn on and off at your leisure. However, with some simple tricks (and a dash of patience) you can slowly lower your BP to a more stable and safe zone
Here are some simple ways to lower your blood pressure:
Take A Nap
If you are in a position to take a quick nap during the day then absolutely do so. Research has shown that doing this will help reduce your HBP levels.
In the Greek study, researchers took a group of 212 older adults and divided them into two groups. One took a nap during the day and the other one didn’t. None of the participants were asked to make any lifestyle changes and were all asked to wear ambulatory blood pressure monitoring devices which would take their blood pressure throughout the day.
At the end of the study, researchers found that the people who took a nap had a 5.3 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure – something they equated to results seen by taking HBP medication or making lifestyle changes to improve your HBP. The researchers also found that adding an extra hour to your naptime helped reduce average 24-hour systolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg -a number that is incredibly close to those achieved by specialized pressure medications which is about 5–7 mm Hg on average (1).
Take A Walk
The next time your blood pressure shoots up try and take a walk. Studies have shown that walking has incredible benefits, especially in relation to HBP.
Earlier this year the AAFP Foundation published an article that stated that walking can help lower systolic blood pressure by 4.11 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure by 1.79 mm Hg, and resting heart rate by 2.76 beats per minute (3).
In 2018 another study also showed that walking works great as a way to reduce high blood pressure. While this experiment took a longer time frame – about six months – researchers found that this simple activity can help reduce your BP by anywhere between 2.6 mmHg to 21.3 mmHg (12).
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Remove Yourself From A Stressful Situation
Whether you suffer from hypertension or not, it is true that stress is the leading cause of high blood pressure in many people (9). According to the Mayo Clinic whenever we are stressed our bodies produce a surge of hormones which cause a wreck to our blood pressure. Of the hormones released, adrenaline is the hormone responsible for increasing your heart rate and elevating blood pressure.
If you are in a highly stressful situation and you feel signs of your blood pressure rising, stop and walk away – leave everything as is and give yourself a moment to calm down. Not only will this help pull your blood pressure levels back down to normal/safe levels, but also chances are that taking a step back from the issue will help you think critically and find a solution.
- Listen to music – This is a great way to help sooth away any stressful thoughts you might have
- Talk to a friend – Be it via a phone call, facetime, or a quick lunch, being with friends is a fantastic way to relieve stress which helps reduce blood pressure.
If walking, being outside in nature, or listening to music isn’t working for you, try meditating. According to Very Well Mind, meditation is a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. If you are unsure how to use meditation to lower blood pressure, this practice comes in many forms such as transcendence meditation, gratitude meditation, mindfulness, mantra meditation, and much more. Find one that works for you and use it the next time your blood pressure is high.
For those who are doubtful that meditation to lower blood pressure actually works, scientific studies show that this ‘new age’ practice does more than we dare give it credit for
According to a Harvard Health, one study done on elderly subjects showed that those who practiced meditation were more likely to be able to control their blood pressure – so much so to the point whereby some could reduce the intake of and even eliminate their blood pressure medications (6).
In 2012, a review looking at perspectives of meditation on lowering blood pressure found that not only does this practice do as it claims, but also that techniques like transcendental and mindfulness meditation had the most success producing clinically significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (4).
Please note while these tips will work to help you lower your blood pressure quickly, they only offer short-term results. If you’d like to have better control over your BP in the long term you are advised to (5)
- Be more active
- Lose weight if you are obese or overweight
- Reduce your refined carbs and sugar intake
- Stop smoking and/or drinking
- Eat less salt and processed foods
Is Downward Dog Bad For High Blood Pressure?
It depends on who you ask. While a source like Yoga Journal states that this pose is perfectly safe for people with high blood pressure (13), most sources claim that this inversion pose must be avoided by all persons with hypertension. It places your head below the heart which is not considered safe for people with blood pressure issues.
Does Bp Increase After Yoga?
As previously mentioned, research shows that doing yoga will lower – not increase your blood pressure. However, to be on the safe side, avoid all positions that put your head under your heart.
Is Hot Yoga Bad For People With High Blood Pressure?
No, it is not. According to the American Heart Association, a study published in 2019 proved that hot yoga can in fact lower blood pressure. The 12-week study revealed that this practice reduced the average diastolic pressure of participants from 82 to 79 (10).
The Bottom Line
For persons with hypertension, yoga is not a practice to be afraid of. If done in the right way, it will not only lower your blood pressure but can also relax you and even burn a few extra calories. Remember that yoga poses to avoid with high blood pressure are those that require your head to be anywhere under the heart – anything else is fair game. That aside, always pay attention to your body. If you start feeling odd in any position – even those considered safe stop immediately and speak to your doctor.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Nap a Day Keeps High Blood Pressure at Bay (2019, acc.org)
- A Systematic Review of the Energy Cost and Metabolic Intensity of Yoga (2016, journals.lww.com)
- Can Walking Lower Blood Pressure in Patients With Hypertension? (2022, aafp.org)
- Current Perspectives on the Use of Meditation to Reduce Blood Pressure (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- High blood pressure: Lowering blood pressure without medication (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Meditation and a relaxation technique to lower blood pressure (2020, health.harvard.edu)
- Mind–body therapies and control of inflammatory biology: A descriptive review (2016, sciencedirect.com)
- Relaxation response may reduce blood pressure by altering expression of a set of genes (2018, sciencedaily.com)
- Stress and hypertension (1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Temps up, blood pressures down in hot yoga study (2019, heart.org)
- Therapeutic perspectives in hypertension: novel means for renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system modulation and emerging device-based approaches (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Walking and hypertension: greater reductions in subjects with higher baseline systolic blood pressure following six months of guided walking (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- YOGA FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (n.d., yogajournal.com)
- Yoga: What You Need To Know (2021, nccih.nih.gov)