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Adults who practice yoga through breathing and relaxation exercises at least three times a week may have lower blood pressure than those who don't, a study suggests.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 49 trials with a total of 3,517 participants, who were typically middle-aged overweight women and men who already had or were close to having high blood pressure. These small trials assessed blood pressure before and after yoga, and participants were randomly assigned to a control group without an exercise program.
Overall, the yoga group had average systolic and diastolic blood pressure reductions of 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 3.9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), respectively, compared with the control group.
When hypertensive patients did yoga, including breathing and relaxation exercises, three times a week, their systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 11 mmHg and their diastolic blood pressure by an average of 6 mmHg, compared with controls.
"Our results not only show that yoga is as effective as or more effective than aerobic exercise in lowering blood pressure; "It also quantitatively shows the importance of emphasizing yoga breathing techniques, mental relaxation/meditation, and body shape during practice," said Yin Wu, lead author of the study and a kinesiology researcher at UConn Starrs.
"Therefore, in other lifestyle interventions (such as dieting and smoking cessation), yoga should be done as early as possible even when blood pressure is relatively low, and medication should be continued when blood pressure is relatively high," Wu said in an email.
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Yoga may seem beneficial, but it's not so beneficial when people practice yoga regularly but don't focus on breathing, relaxing, or meditating. In this case, yoga reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg compared with the inactive group.
In adults, a normal or healthy blood pressure reading is considered 120/80 mmHG or lower.
At the start of the study, the average blood pressure reading was 129.3/80.7 MMHG. This suggests that the reduction associated with yoga may be enough to bring some people back into the normal range.
The first reading, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats. The second number is called diastolic blood pressure and represents the pressure between beats when the heart is at rest.
One limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on the intensity of yoga practices, including how long people held poses and how quickly participants changed from one pose to the next, the study authors note in the Mayo Clinic Journal.
Although yoga and relaxation techniques appear to be beneficial, another study published in the same journal reviewed the records of 89 patients with injuries primarily due to yoga, alerting some to the potential risks of yoga.
The study looked at the type of injury and found 66 had soft tissue injuries, including pain from overuse, and six had shoulder rotator cuff discomfort or limited mobility. In addition, 46 had degenerative joint diseases and 13 had compression fractures.
The researchers note that these observations only included people who were injured. The study was not designed to determine whether or how yoga directly causes harm.
"Yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility in general, but trying to maintain extreme flexibility when joints are weak may cause problems," said senior study author Dr. Meheshed Sinaki, a rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
"Also, if a person reaches the age of 70 or 80 and does too many hip opening exercises or overstretching exercises, they may suffer from hip pain," Naki said in an email. .
While most people can safely practice yoga, older people with osteoporosis (thinning and brittle bones) should be careful. Dr. Edward Laskoski, co-author of an accompanying editorial and co-director of sports medicine at the Mayo Clinic, agreed.
"Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, individualized exercise prescriptions that take into account a person's unique medical history and personal goals should be considered," Lascovschi said in an email.