Scientific research has consistently shown that meditation can be an effective way of balancing blood pressure. And no wonder. It is perhaps the most relaxing activity in the world. And it naturally reduces stress.
By taking just twenty minutes a day to meditate, you can do wonders for your heart and help to normalise your BP. Let me show you how.
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Meditation for Blood Pressure
- Sit somewhere comfortable and relaxing
- Check you are sitting with good posture and that your body feels comfortable
- Close your eyes
- Focus your mind on your breathing. Specifically, focus on your breath as it enters your nose and mouth
- Follow your breath with your mind as it descends deeply into your lungs.
- Now breathe out, again following the breath
- Continue in this fashion for 108 breaths. You should notice that your breathing is deep and relaxed, and you should feel increasingly calm.
- After 108 breaths, open your eyes and stay still for a moment, relaxing.
Integrated Body Mind Training
Science shows that the best types of meditation to reduce your BP are mindfulness, MBSR, Yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These practices also help to manage the painful symptoms of hypertension.
These are all forms of Integrated Body Mind Training.
One especially good exercise is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
The Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine published an article in October that highlighted how mindfulness-based-stress-reduction helps with hypertension.
Joel W Hughes PhD of Kent State University says, “Our results provide evidence that MBSR, [Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction] when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range.”
In the study, 56 men and women diagnosed with prehypertension—BP which is higher than usual but for which no antihypertensive drugs have yet been prescribed—were divided into two groups.
One group used Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to lower BP, practising for 2.5 hours a week. The other group used a muscle relaxation technique along with lifestyle changes.
Researchers then took the BP of members of each group. The results showed that participants who had meditated had significantly lowered their BP, by an average of nearly 5 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg in the control group.
Research suggests that breathing using paced breaths helps.
We usually breathe at a rate of around 12 to 14 breaths per minute. Slowing this pace to five to seven breaths per minutes could balance blood pressure, according to Yale.
“One of the most plausible mechanisms is that paced breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system, which reduce stress chemicals in the brain and increase vascular relaxation that may lead to lowering of blood pressure,” says Suzanne LeBlang, M.D., a neuroradiologist, corresponding author, and an affiliate associate professor in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine
Another study [Pramanik et al., 2009] revealed that slow-paced bhastrika pranayama breathing balances BP and that a respiratory rate of six breath per minute for five minutes can significantly decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Walking is one of the best ways to have a healthy heart.
Research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that walking is as effective as running at lowering your risk of high BP, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
I attempted to find specific research into the effects of Zen walking meditation, as opposed to simply walking and meditating (as separate activities). However, it seems that science has yet to investigate the effects of walking meditation on the condition.
However, given that we know that both meditation and walking are, individually, excellent techniques for balancing BP, it seems only logical that Zen Walking Meditation, a technique that combines the two activities, should be perfect.
As well as walking meditation, there are alternative movement meditations that help with the condition.
Qigong, Tai-Chi, And Falun Gong
Many movement-based stress reduction techniques are also fantastic ways of lowering BP. These are great if you prefer to use a gentle active exercise.
Much scientific research has advocated the use of Tai Chi, for instance. And QiGong is a similar practice, as is Yoga. And there are interesting developments relating to the use of Falun Gong meditation.
It is worth trying different methods to find the ones you like.
“It’s important to find an approach that you feel comfortable with,” says Dr Stein. “Maybe it’s just listening to your favourite music while you walk at a moderate pace.”
How Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure
There are many ways in which meditation and hypertention are related. To understand how, we need to look at the nature of both.
High BP, or hypertension, is sustained abnormally high levels of pressure in the blood. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the condition, but people with the condition may notice a pounding feeling in the chest of head, along with dizziness, light-headedness and other symptoms.
If untreated it can lead to a stroke, heart attack, weak and narrow blood vessel in the kidneys and eyes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, memory problems, and aneurysm.
Hypertention is often treated by medications like Thiazide diuretics, Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), and Calcium channel blockers. Other options include walking, relaxation, and health changes like quitting smoking and drinking, reducing caffeine, losing weight, and eating a healthy diet.
Meditation is a health practice derived from Hinduism, Yoga, and Buddhism.
When we meditate, we focus the mind on the present moment without judgment and continue to do so for around twenty minutes. There are various forms of mindfulness such as mantras, mudras, breathing techniques, visualizations, and guided meditations.
Using meditation for hypertention
Meditation can work alongside conventional treatments fand pharmacology.
According to Dr Randy Zusman at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, meditation helps with the formation of nitric oxide, a compound that causes blood vessels to open, thus helping with the condition.
Plus, meditation increases conscious awareness, which enables us to make lifestyle changes. For instance, quitting smoking, quitting drinking, and enjoying a healthy diet. It does this by increasing self-awareness and reducing cravings. Hence, mindfulness helps both directly and indirectly.
Stress is extremely detrimental to our health, so much so that the American Psychological Association links stress to six of the leading killers. Stress leads to many health complications, including hypertension, depression, anxiety, obesity, and high BP.
Indeed, stress is a leading cause of the condition, even though according to the Mayo Clinic, there is no scientific proof linking stress to hypertention. Indeed, many authorities state that the reason for the link is indirect—stress leads us to live unhealthy lifestyles that impact the heart.
This, however, is also why it is so imperative to use meditation to lower blood pressure. Because not only does mindfulness directly benefit heart health, but it also heightens consciousness, which enables us to live a healthier life.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison