Turns Out, Yoga Really Can Work As Well As Blood Pressure Medication

mbg Associate Health Editor By Darcy McDonough, M.S.
mbg Associate Health Editor
Darcy McDonough is the associate health editor at mbg. She has a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Turns Out, Yoga Really Can Work As Well As Blood Pressure Medication

Photo by Christine Love Hewitt

You probably already know that yoga is great for flexibility and mental health, but did you know it has major cardiovascular benefits as well? In fact, a new study found it may be as powerful as a pill when it comes to lowering blood pressure.

The study, led by a 16-year-old student and backed by the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre in Canada, found that just 15 minutes of yoga five times a week may be as effective as a commonly prescribed medication for lowering blood pressure.

In the study, 60 individuals with high blood pressure were assigned to either relaxation, deep breathing, stretching, or yoga. After three months, relaxation had no effect on blood pressure, while stretching lowered it by 4.5 percent and deep breathing by 7.1 percent. Those assigned to practice yoga saw the most significant improvements, though, lowering blood pressure by 9.7 percent. Prescription diuretics typically lower blood pressure by 10 to 20 percent. Meaning: Downward dog could be just as good as downing a pill when it comes to lowering your blood pressure.

Although the study was small, the results are promising. Yoga may offer a simple, free, and low-impact yet effective way to help the 75 million adults (that’s more than one in three!) suffering from high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can damage the arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in America. Next, the researchers hope to expand the study to a 500-person trial, to further validate the findings.

It is important to note that yoga should not replace traditional therapies but rather may work in conjunction with medication. So talk to your doctor, roll out your mat, and meet us in shavasana.

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