By Faye Martins
During yoga teacher training, there is so much talk about asanas being contraindicated because of high blood pressure that it leaves some interns in a state of confusion. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects millions of people. When you suffer from high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder than normal just to pump blood throughout the body to stay alive. This can lead to other heart complications, like hardening of the arteries or heart failure.
High blood pressure can be a hereditary condition, but eating a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, stress and old age can also cause it. Some people turn to medication to help correct this condition. Medications can be costly and not without additional side effects. People who are looking for a more natural way to treat and prevent high blood pressure often turn to yoga training.
When stress is the cause of hypertension, yoga can help. Yoga is typically practiced in a quiet, calm environment that allows people to take a break from their busy, stressful lives. Yoga training allows you to release the stress from the day in a positive way. It isn’t healthy to let stress and anxiety build up in the mind and body. Practicing a series of yoga postures encourages negative thoughts and stress to flee the mind while the body is working to get rid of muscle tension. People who practice regularly feel a sense of release each time.
Most yogic practices incorporate breathing exercises, which will also help relieve hypertension. Breathing deeply brings oxygen to the cells that carry blood throughout the body. The more oxygen taken in, the more efficient the blood can flow. Organs in the body crave oxygen just as we do, but it’s too easy to breath just enough to stay alive and not enough to gain the benefits it can provide. Yogic exercise allows you to take the time for long, deep breaths that fill up the entire abdomen and chest cavity. The more you practice deep, deliberate breaths, the easier and more natural they become. Those who suffer from hypertension can benefit from the reduced heart rate that results from deep breathing.
Side Notes for Yoga Teachers
As you may already have learned, during your foundational yoga teacher training, meditation has also been proven to be an effective way to relieve the stress and anxiety that can cause high blood pressure. You can start small, by taking just five minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe and reflect on positive thoughts and well-being. As you gain more experience, you will most likely want to lengthen your meditative sessions to 10 minutes or longer. You might even incorporate some easy asanas with the meditation to give your student’s muscles a chance to release.
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