It's estimated that 34 million Americans do yoga at least once a year, bringing mind and body into harmony through movement, breathing, and meditation.
But that's not frequently enough to reap its far-reaching benefits of better balance, less joint and muscle pain, enhanced immune response, less stress, stronger muscles — and, it turns out, even lower blood pressure.
A study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology looked at 60 people with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (a precursor to diabetes, heart attack, and stroke). For three months, the researchers had half of the participants do 30 minutes of aerobics five days a week, followed by 15 minutes of yoga; the other half did the aerobics routine followed by 15 minutes of regular muscle stretching.
The yoga group saw their systolic blood pressure (the top number) go down by 10 points. The stretching group saw a four-point reduction. That major drop in blood pressure significantly reduced the yoga group's 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke.
While some forms of yoga are intense, flowing, and even done in 100-degree rooms with 40% humidity, there are many forms — including restorative yoga, chair yoga, and Iyengar yoga — that will suit the flexibility (or inflexibility) of almost everyone.