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High blood pressure, yoga and you

Angelina Calafiore
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKE,Calif. and#8212; During my 15 years as a yoga teacher I have had a lot of students. Many of them came to me because they wanted a better quality of life, they wanted to explore their spiritual side, a way to stay healthy and fit without all the strain of more intense workouts and a lot of them came on the recommendation of their physicians. For whatever the reason, yoga gives you what you need, and it can become a foundation for all the other physical activities that one does.

Yoga is an ancient science. It is one of a few forms of physical exercise that one can sustain even into our senior years. A person can realistically do yoga more than once in a day and continue doing that the rest of their lives. One of my first teachers used to tell us and#8220;Yoga is like an addiction that is good for you because it is the only addiction that is the cure for itself.and#8221; I have repeated that to my students and many have told me when they donand#8217;t do yoga regularly their bodies crave it and so they do it spontaneously at home or wherever. Yes, yoga is like that. Anything real, works and#8230; it just does.

High blood pressure is one of the most common modern ailments that affect many of us. High or low blood pressure is characterized by abnormal pressure levels in the arteries. The blood pressure in a healthy, normal person is 90/60 mmhg.

When the pressure is lower than normal, it interferes with the well being of a person. When the pressure increases, it causes damage to the heart and sometimes can prove to be fatal. Hypertension is usually caused due to excess stress, strain, and emotional disturbances.

In some cases, arterial problems, disturbed kidney function and malfunctioning of the endocrine glands cause hypertension. Some of the typical symptoms are dizziness, sound in the ears, headaches and dull vision.

One way to help prevent or treat high blood pressure naturally is through the practice of yoga and meditation. Many modern doctors have recognized Yoga and meditation help to combat stress and saturates the mind with tranquility. Western medicine has begun to recognize ancient systems can be integrated with modern medicine for optimal results. However, yoga is not the only cure for hypertension, obviously medical advice is necessary and one must find a system that works for them. It is always recommended you consult your physician before beginning any new form of exercise.

With yoga the asanas help in bringing about a balance in the autonomous nervous system, a center that controls stress. Yoga helps in regulating the blood pressure by stabilizing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Meditation can be practiced by itself or more preferably after a yoga session. Your body is now at ease and basically free of pain that would be a distraction otherwise. One may sit in a state of calm allowing oneand#8217;s mind to slow what yoga calls chitta vritti or mental chatter. Breathing is deep and relaxed, the mind begins to calm and the body feels at ease and#8212; peaceful.

Hypertension affects the internal organs like heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. The practice of asanas and pranayama helps to reduce the damage caused by hypertension. During asana practice, the movements are static, meaning that you rest in a posture; hence, it requires less blood and oxygen to assume a posture. Because there is little or no strain, it allows the muscles to be relaxed. The circulation of blood is improved because the muscles are not in a contracted state that would narrow the vessels. Yoga helps in oxygenating the blood, enabling fresh nutrients to all the vessels and capillaries in the blood. When blood circulation is improved, the brain can absorb more oxygen and this enables one to be alert, enhances concentration skills and improves mood swings. When stress is reduced, the bodyand#8217;s immune system gets a boost, which also effectively enhances cognitive abilities. If you think about this, yoga can be a practical solution to a common malady.

We have all experienced moments of heightened tension and know how it feels to come down from that. Yoga practices are meant to help combat the daily onslaught of our business of living in a modern world. What a concept. An ancient practice is still as useful (if not more so) as it was in ancient times.

In yoga we say the heart gets a true rest in the space between your breaths. Try it now, breathe in for 8 counts and pause for 2 counts, breath out for 8 counts and pause for 4 counts. Donand#8217;t hold your breath, just pause your breath. Do this for a few minutes. Go ahead and stop reading, sit comfortably, close your eyes and just breathe. See? How simple was that? Notice how you feel, now keep readingand#8230;

Emotional stress is the most common contributing factor to high blood pressure. It is a mental condition. One of the most effective ways I have found is to change your mental attitude toward the problems that trouble you. To initiate change in thought patterns requires mental strength. I am not talking about discipline or will, but and#8220;strengthand#8221; or and#8220;abilityand#8221; as in the ability to be mentally calm because you have enough and#8220;energy.and#8221; This strength or energy can be gained through pranayama. The word pranayama comes from prana (breath) and yama (restraint/control).

Most literally it can be interpreted as breath expansion and extension. Breath is necessary for all beings to live and how we breathe is a real clue to what is going on in our bodies. Pranayama practices can help reduce or eliminate hypertension and becomes a viable tool in your arsenal for living a higher quality of life.

With enough oxygen in your blood supply, your brain and other vital organs get what they need and therefore your brain is not taking up the lionand#8217;s share of the supply as it does when you donand#8217;t have enough oxygen in your system.

The brain will always take what it needs first and the other organs have to make do with what is leftover. When your brain is not in a state of alert due to low oxygen levels, your brain can operate. It has and#8220;energyand#8221; and that means you can think better and more logically and your system can function better. You can sleep better, you digest your food better, you feel more alert, etc.

There are many paths one may take toward health and well-being. This is just one way I have found that works well, find what works for you and do that and may you be healthy, wealthy and wise.

and#8212; Angelina Calafiore, CYT is the owner/director of Serendipity Yoga Center for Health and Wellbeing. You can visit her website at http://www.serendipityoga.org or call her at 530-559-1839.


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