Yoga-like relaxation therapy lowers BP

May 19, 2010 by  

Ok, so practicing yoga is associated with female intellectuals with leanings towards spirituality and alternative medicine and blue-collar males would never have anything to do with it. But what if it really works in lowering blood pressure? How do motivate the machos to give it a try?

To avoid preconceptions that their patients– mainly working-age workmen undergoing cardiac rehabilitation – have about yoga, the researchers simply called it relaxation/stress reduction therapy and compared to the standard therapy in this patient population called progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Thus, the patients were actually “blinded” to the therapy they were randomized to, simply called relaxation 1 (yoga) and relaxation 2 (PMR).

PMR is “a technique based on alternate tensing and relaxing of muscles … used to reduce stress and anxiety.” The yoga practice used was Vinyoga.

A total of 340 male patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation and suffering from hypertension were randomly assigned to either relaxation 1 or relaxation 2 therapies 5 times weekly for 3 weeks at a rehabilitation center. Most of the patients were taking several antihypertensive drugs. After 3 weeks, the patients were asked to continue the relaxation practice at home.

After 3 weeks, decrease in systolic blood pressure levels was significantly more in the yoga group than in the PMR group. The blood pressure-lowering effect of yoga was especially pronounced among those with the highest systolic blood pressure at baseline.

However, adherence to the relaxation therapy in the home setting proved to be difficult. After 6 months, only 50% of the PMR group was practicing relaxation therapy once a week. Adherence is even lower in the yoga group, at 30% after 6 months. Despite these seemingly high drop out rates, the authors claim these adherence rates are actually higher than those reported by previous studies using standard rehab programs.

The Vinyoga seems to be especially promising in fighting hypertension if only the patients will be motivated enough to continue the practice beyond the rehab center setting. Ways of motivating these patients – men expected to return to their manual and usually physically taxing jobs – need to be explored. Calling the practice yoga would definitely dampen the enthusiasm rather quickly.

According to lead researcher Dr Wolfgang Mayer-Berger,

“[It is] too early to make yoga a part of usual cardiac-rehabilitation therapy [but] maybe this is really an everyday therapy we can use.”

Follow-up studies are being planned to confirm the blood pressure lowering effects of yoga.

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