Meditation and Your Blood Pressure: How It Helps

Meditation for lowering blood pressureWith World Health Day on April 7th this year and its focus on high blood pressure, I thought it’d be a good time to talk about meditation. Meditation is gaining momentum into the mainstream, and one of its often lauded benefits is that it can help you relieve stress and lower your blood pressure.

What Is Meditation?

It’s a process. An inward-looking process. It’s not easy to define, because there are many ways to approach meditation and there are many ways to practice it. In general, it’s an introspective process in which you take the time, sometimes set, sometimes not, to focus on one thing—whether it’s your breath, a mantra, or a simple activity (like walking), just to name a few things. This introspection is intended to help you focus on something simple and present rather than the past or the impending future.

As I said, it’s a process. It’s not easy to live in the present if you have spent much of your life worrying about the future and the past, as most of us modern 21st century people have. Over time, and with lots of practice, you can train yourself and your mind to settle down, just for a few minutes a day, and be present.

What does it do?

I won’t get into the benefits too much, because there are a million other articles out there (maybe more) exalting meditation and its benefits [http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8171/5-benefits-of-a-10-minute-meditation-practice.html]. I’ll just discuss some of the benefits I’ve experienced personally as a result of practicing meditation.

  • Stress relief
  • Relaxation or a sense of peacefulness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better focus and concentration (after practicing)

How do I know meditation lowers my blood pressure?

I did a little experiment, and got proof, though I didn’t need it. I was just curious to see what the actual numerical difference was in the relevant situation:

I drove home in a blizzard in late March and terrified the hell out of myself. I had a knot in my stomach the entire time, and at the end of one particularly nasty stretch of the drive, I had so much adrenaline running through me that my foot was actually shaking as I tried to work the gas pedal. I would hate to think what my blood pressure was during that 45 minute stretch of road, but I have to think it was probably somewhere on par with being chased by a bear. I was that scared.

When I got home (in one piece, thankfully), I took my blood pressure with one of those home testing machines. My blood pressure that night was 129/78, which is above normal, and super high for me. My systolic usually runs somewhere between 90-110 and my diastolic is almost always about 60-70. (My “normal” blood pressure is actually a bit lower on the normal range, which is why those numbers made me a little nervous.) My pulse was 97, whereas it is usually about 60-65 – super high again. Luckily, I knew what had caused the increase, and I knew a way to bring it back down.

I set a timer for ten minutes on my smartphone, put on a yoga music station on my Pandora app, and sat down quietly with my eyes closed, legs crossed Indian-style, and tried to focus on taking deep belly-breaths, and then deep breaths filling my rib cage and upper body, keeping my stomach still. My cat wandered around me and rubbed his head against my knees while I sat there, and my dad came home from work a couple minutes before the timer went off, but I stayed quiet, still trying to focus on my breathing, until the timer went off.

I slowly came back out of meditation. Opening my eyes again and standing up. I pulled out the machine again, rolled up my sleeve, and took my blood pressure again. 109/72. Pulse back down into the seventies. I didn’t need to take my blood pressure before and after to know it would be lower after I meditated for a few minutes, but it’s sort of reassuring to know the difference those ten minutes really made.

The point is…

Distractions happen. Not everybody has a completely quiet place free from noise, family members and pets, and other things that can interrupt your train of thought. That’s ok. A lot of hardcore meditation people have these idyllic environments and it’s part of the reason they’ve been able to become so skilled at their practice. But, for the rest of us, we don’t want to be monks. We don’t want to be yogis. We just want a little peace and quiet to bring that heart rate down to a normal pace.

When it comes to meditation, it is all in your head. Distractions are only distractions if you let them persist. You allow them to pass – there’s no stopping them, anyway – and after they do, you get right back to your meditation.

Thoughts can be distracting, too. Maybe you have a big presentation coming up. A midterm or final exam. Your child’s starting kindergarten next week. Your child’s getting their driver’s license next week. Or maybe it’s in the past: You offended a coworker without meaning to. That guy cut you off on your way home from work. You just had an argument with your spouse.

Whatever is on your mind is on your mind – there’s no stopping it until that test is over, you apologize to your colleague, or you make up with your spouse. That’s ok, too. That’s how our minds work – they are constantly thinking, processing, planning, reminiscing, worrying, and regretting one thing or another. Meditation isn’t supposed to get you to stop thinking. It’s just a way of putting a pin in those thoughts for a few minutes, and focusing on the basics – like breathing – in the meantime.

The point of meditation isn’t to stop these thoughts altogether. It’s only to turn the volume down for a little while so that your body and mind can focus on you, at this moment, and maybe make all those thoughts and worries and stressors seem a little less weighty.

Photo by: Flickr user Relaxing Music

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Disclaimer:  
The information on this website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition. Please consult your doctor before attempting any of the exercises, remedies, or health tips on this website to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.
About Jessica

I'm a writer, blogger, and just your average gal trying to live a healthy, happy life. I'm no expert, but my knowledge comes firsthand from my own dieting, exercise, and overall wellness experiences. Tweet me @cultivate happy!

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