High Blood Pressure, HBP, Hypertension, HTN, and HT. These are all names for a condition that until last year, I thought was only for “old people.” WRONG.
High blood pressure, often referred to as the “silent killer,” can go on for years and years in a person with zero symptoms. That is pretty scary, considering the severity of it. Of course, we live in an age where medications are available, and while high blood pressure medications can help maintain a healthier reading, deep breathing for high blood pressure is also a very effective means to manage those scary numbers. I was diagnosed with what is called Essential Hypertension, meaning it is caused by genetics and not lifestyle, and reluctantly started taking a Rx for it. I am not a fan of being on any medication, but my numbers were so high, I had no choice (155/130ish). However, being the naturally curious wellness driven individual that I am, I used my interest and basic experience with meditation to research and experiment with deep breathing for high blood pressure. Check it out.
How It All Comes Together
Inhale, exhale, repeat. We do it all day, every day, without giving it a thought. This is the magical workings of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for all the involuntary actions we do, such as breathing and digestion. Within the autonomic nervous system are two interrelated parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The very basic difference is that the sympathetic nervous system prepares us for fight-or flight reactions, and the parasympathetic nervous system does the opposite. It slows us down and inhibits actions that require high levels of energy.
What happens when your sympathetic nervous system is turned on and you feel stressed? We’ve all been there. Our heart rate increases, we may start to sweat, our blood pressure increases, and our adrenal glands release hormones referred to as adrenaline to kick start us to either take flight or fight. Here are three methods to deep breathing for high blood pressure.
This type of breathing was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, and is based off of an ancient yoga practice called pranayama. It has been shown to decrease activity of the sympathetic nervous system and help the body relax. This is excellent for lowering high blood pressure, and is a great way to fall asleep at night if you’re laying in bed tossing and turning.
- Close your eyes and mouth and breathe in for four seconds, counting to four silently in your mind.
- Next, you are going to keep your eyes and mouth closed, holding your breath for seven seconds.
- Finally, exhale slowly, extending the release of air for eight seconds. Typically, a small “whooshing” sound may come out with the air, that is good and is a sign of stress and tension release.
The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in the process of breathing. It is a dome shaped muscle that is located just below the lungs and heart. It contracts continually as you breathe in and out.
This form of breathing works on this important muscle and helps to make it stronger, while also relaxing the body and lowering stress levels. This form of deep breathing for high blood pressure can be done either laying down or sitting in a chair. You will want to follow these steps to ensure you are getting the most effective results:
- Place one hand on the upper part of your chest, and the other just below your rib cage. By placing your hands here, you will be able to feel your diaphragm move as you breath.
- With your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach move out against your hand. (Your other hand on the top of your chest should not be moving).
- For the exhalation stage, you will purse your lips, as if you are about to whistle or gently blow out a candle, and tighten up your stomach muscles as you exhale slowly. It is helpful to imagine your stomach muscles falling inward. Again, you want to be sure your top hand is stationary.
30 Second Breathing
This method of breathing is probably the simplest to perform, and works most directly on the systolic blood pressure number (the top number). The idea behind this is to take six deep breaths within a thirty-second time frame. To put this in perspective, the average healthy adult takes 12-18 breaths per minute, which equates to roughly 6-9 breaths per 30 seconds. We don’t usually give this a second thought, let alone count how many breaths we are taking. This is why being mindful of our breath and learning to pay attention to our body as it moves up and down is half the battle.
- Sit or lay down in a quiet place.
- Close your eyes.
- Set a timer for thirty seconds.
- Take six deep breaths, exhaling slowly.
- Repeat as you feel your body needs.
These breathing techniques are effective at refocusing the mind to pay attention to our breath and what is happening in our body, instead of worrying about our day and what may or may not happen tomorrow. As we know, chronic worry and stress causes activation of the sympathetic nervous system and can have a negative impact on our blood pressure. So whether you have blood pressure as a chronic condition like myself, or just deal with the occasional stressful moment, deep breathing for high blood pressure can help tremendously to calm your body down and return to homeostasis…and that feels awesome
**This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.**