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Improve Heart Health With This Breathing Exercise

To improve cardiovascular health and lower your risk of high blood pressure, try this breathing exercise for five minutes, six days a week.

By D Tejaswi
31 Jul 2021

Research by the University of Colorado Boulder says that Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), a breathing exercise, can lower blood pressure (BP) in six weeks. The benefits are comparable to daily exercise or medication.

 

The study recruited 36 adults with above-normal systolic blood pressure. The group of adults that practiced IMST saw a dip in BP by nine points on average, a reduction that is usually more than what may be accomplished by walking 30 minutes five days a week.

Half of the participants were asked to do IMST and the other half were on a placebo routine. The participants who did IMST for 6 weeks were found to have 45 percent higher vascular endothelial function i.e. the ability for arteries to expand on stimulation–something that is important for a healthy heart.

The breathing exercise used in the study made use of a device that created pressure on the inhalation, forcing the lungs to work harder. The participants did only thirty breaths per day of IMST and showed marked improvements.

While the breathing exercise demonstrated in the video is not what is used in this study, there is some evidence that slow paced breathing, along with pressure applied to the breath through constriction of the glottis, has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular function, the Vagus nerve, and baroreflex sensitivity.

The benefits of IMST are at par with passive stretching, running, swimming that increase blood flow in arteries and decrease artery stiffness, finds the study. Researchers suggest that doing IMST is simple and one can do it even while watching TV.


But, if you don’t have the device, try ujjayi pranayama. “Ujjayi breathing or ocean breathing is slow-paced breathing. It can control your heart rate variability, reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health,” says Eddie Stern, a New York-based yoga-teacher.

How to do Ujjai Pranayama?

  • Close your mouth.
  • Constrict your throat to the point where your breathing sounds rushed, almost snoring-like.
  • Use your throat muscles to constrict your airway a little bit.
  • Make your inhalations and exhalations the same length. Ideally, inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds (beginners can start with three seconds).
  • Watch the video to see how Stern performs the Ujjayi Pranayama.

Stern says that it is important to not over-tighten the throat while making the hissing sound. “At first, it may feel difficult to get enough air, but it should become easier with practice,” he says. But, at any point, if you feel uncomfortable or have pre-existing serious health issues, it’s best to consult your physician, advises Stern.

 

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