There are a lot of public claims related to yoga and its positive impact on health. Most of them come from people with a spiritual background or people who want to sell their product and it’s part of their sales pitch. One of them is a declaration about effects of yoga on hypertension or high blood pressure. Fortunately, we have also scientific studies at our disposal to decide who’s right. Let’s focus on what scientists came up with.
Note: Why does high blood pressure even matter? Hypertension remains a major public health issue and is associated with increased risks of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease. How can you prevent it? Besides quitting smoking, changing your diet, in general, it’s recommended to do any regular activity that makes your heart beat a little faster or breathing harder can work.
So the question is: Is yoga the right activity to cure or prevent high blood pressure?
A quick answer is YES. But it’s not more effective compared to aerobic exercises.
One of the relevant studies comes from investigators at the University of Pennsylvania, who ran a research in 2011 on the topic. Participants included 78 adults with untreated systolic blood pressure ≥130 mmHg but <160 mmHg, and diastolic <100 mmHg. They reported that people in yoga group - who did postural Iyengar yoga, for twelve weeks succeeded in reducing hypertension.
The thing is that the Pennsylvania study didn’t compare yoga with aerobic exercises. For this purpose, let’s unravel the results of the US study financed by National Institute of General Medical Sciences. In 2013, a group of scientists from several universities published a paper called Effectiveness of Yoga for Hypertension: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
They screened scientific databases for controlled studies related to effects of yoga on high blood pressure from 1966 to March 2013. Finally, 17 studies were in a game.
Results: Yoga, in general, was associated with a modest reduction in blood pressure. The more significant change in blood pressure, a decline in systolic (−7.96 mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (−5.52 mmHg), appeared within groups incorporating yoga postures, meditation, and breathing. But only compared to no treatment.
Control groups with people who regularly exercised decreased systolic blood pressure in the range of 3–9 mmHg. Therefore yoga doesn’t provide higher chances to prevent or cure hypertension when compared to other cardio activities.