Yoga AIDS blood pressure recovery after exposure of forehead to cold: A pilot study


Context • Hypotension that occurs after a single bout of aerobic exercise also attenuates the vascular response to discrete stressors, an effect that can last for hours. It is unknown whether the hypotensive benefits of traditional exercise extend to alternative forms of mindful exercise, such as yoga, to confer transient protection against neurovascular challenges that increase blood pressure (BP). Objectives • The study intended to examine the effects of acute exercise on neurovascular responses to exposure of the forehead of female yoga practitioners to vasoconstrictive cold (ie, to cold pressor stress). Design • The research team designed a study with 3 conditions (ie, with participants' participation in 3 activities on separate days in a repeated-measures design). Participants were randomly assigned to perform the activities in 1 of 3 orders across successive visits. Participants • Participants were 9 females, 20 to 33 y old, who had regularly practiced Hatha yoga from 6 mo to 12 y before the start of the study. All participants were normotensive at entry to the study and had normal body weights for their heights. Interventions • All participants performed 3 activities: (1) self-directed yoga practice, the intervention; (2) cycling exercise at a self-selected intensity, a positive control; and (3) quiet rest, a negative control. Outcome Measures • Postintervention, participants' foreheads were exposed to cold. Their systolic blood pressures (SBPs), diastolic blood pressures (DBPs), pulse rates, and forearm oxygenation were assessed using near-infrared spectroscopy. Results • Participants' SBPs and DBPs increased during cold pressor stress under all conditions, concurrent with decreased forearm oxygenation. During recovery from the cold, participants' BPs declined to near precold pressor baseline levels after yoga and cycling but remained elevated after quiet rest. Conclusions • The enhanced recovery of BP from cold applied to the forehead after yoga practice or cycling exercise suggests that both types of exercise promote a hypotensive response, which could indicate lowered cardiovascular risk.

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine