A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds that isometric exercises—think of chair pose or plank, lowers blood pressure more effectively than aerobic or cardio exercises such as cycling. The large study, consisting of 270 randomized controlled trials and close to 16,000 individuals, challenges existing guidelines, which emphasize aerobic exercises for blood pressure reduction.
What makes Static or Isometric Poses Effective at Lowering Blood Pressure?
According to the co-author of the study:
“They increase the tension in the muscles when held for two minutes, then cause a sudden rush of blood when you relax,” he says.
“This increases the blood flow, but you must remember to breathe.”Jamie O’Driscoll from Canterbury Christ Church University | BBC
All About High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can damage the heart and other organs. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
The study reminds me of the wisdom of Iyengar yoga, where you hold poses at length and breathe deeply. I find that yoga classes in studios nowadays focus on the vinyasa aspect of the practice. Understandable, since vinyasa offers movement, flow, and pushups. Even in poses such as chair, we are sometimes asked to pulse it out.
I understand why studios want to keep students moving. With our attention spans shrinking and yoga studios associated with exercise, stillness can be frustrating. Moving makes yoga feel like a workout. This study is a reminder to students that we can still receive the health benefits of yoga without having to constantly move. And for teachers, if you want to teach a class that requires more static holds, sharing the link between blood pressure and isometric poses might encourage students to slow down and enjoy the benefits of being still.