Ever experience the darkness or dizziness when moving quickly from a forward fold to mountain pose? As a yoga teacher and practitioner with low blood pressure – I wanted to share what I have found helpful for my own yoga practice and for my students.
What is Low Blood Pressure?
The Mayo Clinic and The American Heart Association define low blood pressure (also known as hypotension) as less than 90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) systolic blood pressure or less than 60 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure.
What are the Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure?
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred Vision
- Pale, cold, clammy skin
- Quick, shallow breathing
It is best to see a health care professional to have your blood pressure checked if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. As a yoga teacher – I encourage any students with the above symptoms to visit a health care provider as soon as possible.
Low Blood Pressure May Be Caused By:
- Prolonged bed rest
- Low blood volume
- Certain medications
- Heart problems
- Endocrine problems
- Severe infection
- Allergic reaction
- Nutritional deficiencies
Yoga for Low Blood Pressure
Yoga improves circulation, so it can be very beneficial for people with low blood pressure. There are some things to keep in mind when guiding students with low blood pressure.
Keep transitions slow and gentle when leading students who have low blood pressure. You might want to add in some cues as well to encourage them to make the transitions (for example from forward fold to mountain) even slower. Talk about how to modify for low blood pressure. In our MamaNurture Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Kim and I emphasize slow transitions with this in mind. Also you might want to cue students to raise the head up last after any forward fold – this can be very helpful with low blood pressure.
1. Encourage full yogic breathing. Notice if students are holding the breath and cue an inhale with transitions. Some yoga teachers and students have said that they find a *Viloma style pranayama (3-part breath) with the inhale version, helpful for transitions.
*It is important to note – if students may be pregnant that the breath is not held. Viloma Pranayama can still be done, but in a gentle way with no breath retention.
2. Avoid excessive exertion, especially if students have shared that they have low blood pressure. Remember that a class can be very challenging and strengthening without being at a fast pace.
3. With pregnant students, cue them to lie on their left side or use props for a 45 degree angle instead of lying flat on the back. This is needed more in the 2nd and 3rd trimester when baby is growing and putting more pressure on the vena cava. If you are looking for a great way to remember this think LLL
LLL = Love to Lie on the Left side
4. Use inversions, twists and front extensions (also called backbends) as therapeutic poses. Keep in mind that the student will know what feels best. Sometimes I will have prenatal yoga students try legs up the wall, but it depends on the degree of low blood pressure and their comfort level lying on the back. Watch for any symptoms of hypotension. Be ready to modify.
When guiding students into inversions, (where the head is lower than the heart) – remember slow transitions are key. A great example of this is modifying a forward bend to be an “L” shape at the wall. Hands are on the wall. Ears stay in line with the straight arms. Form a 90 degree “L” shape with the bend at the hip crease. Knees can bend, especially if hamstrings are tight. From here get students to transition slowly, walking the hands up the wall until they can rest the forehead on the wall.
Front extensions and twists are also beneficial as they stimulate the kidneys and improve circulation.
5. If you begin to experience dizziness while standing in mountain pose, cross your thighs in an eagle pose fashion and squeeze or place a foot up on to a chair or stair and lean forward as far as possible. Both of these will encourage more blood flow to your heart from your legs.
5. Poses for high blood pressure are often also recommended for low blood pressure. Megan de Matteo explains this well in her Yoga for Regulating Blood Pressure article.
She says, “Interestingly enough, Iyengar recommends some of the same poses—Halasana, Paschimottonasana, and Virasana—for those with low blood pressure. This is because these poses calm and regulate the nervous system bringing the body into balance in whatever way it needs.”
Other Tips for Low Blood Pressure:
• Stay hydrated
• Ensure you are getting enough vitamins within your diet
• Eat small low-carb meals
• Avoid getting overheated (including hot baths and showers)
Do you have modifications that you use in your own practice that help to alleviate low blood pressure symptoms? If so please share in the comments below.