At the pace we live, it’s no wonder hypertension has reached epidemic proportions—almost a third of adults have high blood pressure. But a review conducted by the Prevention Research Center at Yale University’s School of Medicine found that yoga may be as effective in reducing total blood pressure as conventional drug treatments. So strike a pose.
Obvious hypertension, usually seen in people who are outwardly agitated or jittery, stresses the kidneys and causes them to push backward, explains Aadil Palkhivala, certified yoga therapist and creator of Purna Yoga in Bellevue, Washington. He recommends the following asanas to awaken and soothe the kidneys and the adrenals.
1. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). This pose helps stimulate healthy kidney function by stretching the lumbar and mid-thoracic regions laterally. Stand with your back close to a wall and your feet about 31/2 feet apart. Your right foot should be parallel to the wall, and your left turned in slightly. Keeping your hips square to the wall, stretch your arms out to the sides and lengthen up through your spine. As you exhale, keep your back straight and extend your right arm to the side, as far as it can reach. Then, bring your right hand to a block placed along the outside of your right foot and reach your left hand to the ceiling. Stay in this position for three to five breaths, and repeat on the other side.
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2. Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Pose). This pose soothes the kidneys by allowing them to drop back into their natural position. Sit up tall with your legs wide apart, knees and toes pointing to the ceiling. Place a bolster lengthwise in front of you. As you exhale, extend your trunk forward between your legs until your torso and head rest on the bolster. Fold your arms under your forehead and relax. If this is too much, place a chair between your legs, bend forward, and fold your arms on the chair’s seat, resting your head on your arms. Add a pillow for extra comfort. Stay here for at least one minute. Pent-up hypertension can be harder to detect, says Palkhivala, because the individual may seem outwardly peaceful but suffers from a great deal of tension in the muscles and organs. If that sounds like you, try these gentle backbends to release tension stored in the heart and throat.
3. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) Lie on your stomach, forehead on a mat, hands under your shoulders, elbows tucked into the body, and your shoulders back and down. Lift your head and upper body off the mat, creating a gentle arch in the spine. Your pelvis should remain on the mat to protect the lower back. Stay in Cobra for three to five breaths.
4. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) Kneel with legs hip-width apart, thighs perpendicular to the floor. Inhale, lengthen the spine, and begin to move your chest up toward the ceiling into a gentle backbend. Reach behind with your arms, and if you can touch your heels, do so, otherwise keep your hands on your buttocks. Look up to the ceiling. Take three to five deep breaths here.