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Yoga and High Blood Pressure

Yoga is often recommended for those who have high blood pressure, but like anything else, there are benefits and risks to all activities.

Yoga is usually recommended for people with high blood pressure because it can help one relax and feel "centered" or focused, and offer wonderful benefits such as an increase in flexibility, strength, and range of motion for many joints. However, there are many, many, types of yoga, and if you have high blood pressure or heart complications, finding the right kind of yoga to fit your needs and wants is important.

First, always ask your physician what your limitations or recommendations are, and get medical clearance to exercise before starting any exercise program. People with high blood pressure should exercise daily if possible; incorporating aerobic, resistance training, and several other areas mapped out by a degreed and medically-fitness trained, certified fitness professional.

Starting with a gentle yoga class is great for those who have high blood pressure. Be sure to find a place where a thorough health history is completed for each participant so the staff knows your conditions and medications (high blood pressure medications often have side affects that can affect balance and heart rate as well as blood pressure), and therefore the safety guidelines for each student. Arrive at least 15 minutes early for classes to discuss safety measures with your instructor, and to be sure he or she is aware of your situation. You may even want to call ahead so the instructor is sure to make time for you.

As a general safety precaution, avoid yoga poses that put the head below the heart such as downward facing dog, the intense side stretch, and of course, inversions and handstands. Your instructor will have better options and modifications for you. Also avoid positions that can cut off circulation and give you that "woozy" feeling when you ease out of them. These may include the noose, hero, lotus, frog, and child's pose where there is an extreme angle placed on the knees. Again, your instructor will help you find options that are safer. Don't ever be afraid to communicate health concerns with your instructor, he or she will want you to have a great experience and enjoy the class.

Finally, avoid Bikram or "hot" yoga, which is performed in a 95 to 110 degree environment. This can be very dangerous for many conditions, but especially for those with high blood pressure. Always stay in a cool environment, with cool moving air when exercising.

Remember to try different kinds of classes, or even different instructors for yoga or any type of exercise class. If you don't like one class, don't give up. Keep attending other classes. Call around and ask if facilities have classes that are geared toward your age group, ability level, and ask about the environment. Just like trying on shoes, you want to find a good fit that you will enjoy!

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