Research trials (references given below) have established the benefits of qigong meditation and qigong exercises (like Tai Chi and Ba Juan Din) for helping those who have hypertension. These practices offer an energy healing therapy similar to that which results from meditation practices in other traditions (mindfulness, mantras, etc). Studies have also indicated that it is also possible for practitioners to experience a decrease in serum cholesterol and improvement of cognitive perception.
Meditation is a foundational method for calming the nervous system. Smoothing of the functioning of the nervous system results in multiple benefits for one’s metabolism, including: lowered blood pressure, a reduction of the heart rate, a slower metabolism and less stress hormones. There is a switching from the autonomic nervous system (fight-or-flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system. With regular practice, these changes can become the natural state of your physiology and being. Relaxed awareness can become a part of your everyday being and can serve you better than a nervous awareness that depends on adrenal hormones of the autonomic nervous system.
According to TCM, hypertension is a result of having excessive yang energy in your body. Meditation allows the release of these excess energies from your nervous system, making it possible for your energy channels to become more balanced. As a preparatory practice before movements, meditation will increase your tranquility and awareness of the interplay between yin and yang as you perform the movements. In this way, meditation followed by exercise provides a proper foundation for awareness while doing qigong forms.
If you aren’t sure where to start, examples of qigong meditation practices can be found in previously published blogs, such as the following the breath post. Two other posts regarding Taoist breathing methods have also been published. I will cover different movement forms that are specifically good for lowering high blood pressure in a future post.
One caution: Some forms of qigong are not suitable for those with high blood pressure, in fact, some postures are used for those who have hypotension. Forms where there is breath holding are not recommended. Other modifications for qigong exercises for hypertension patients include performing postures that are done with the palms facing towards the ground. The palms facing down help lead excess energy down the body and into the ground. Postures and exercises that facilitate obtaining an awareness of lower body grounding are essential as well.
Nutrition and Hypertension
It is also important to follow a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber. If you are looking for dietary recommendations, look into the Mediterranean Diet. Some recommend garlic as a supplement, but an overview of 40 randomized trials indicate that the evidence for this application is lacking. (See the review by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University) Garlic intake will help your heart health and reduce the production of cholesterol by your liver.
1. Cheung B. M., et al. 2005. Randomised controlled trial of qigong in the treatment of mild essential hypertension. J. Hum. Hypertens. 19:697-704.
2. Johnson, J. A. 2000. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy. A Comprehensive Medical Text. The International Institute of Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove, CA. 1086pp.
3. Lee M. S., et al. 2003. Effects of Qigong on blood pressure, blood pressure determinants and ventilatory function in middle-aged patients with essential hypertension. Am. J. Chin. Med. 2003;31(3):489-497.
4. Lee M. S., et al. 2003. Qigong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine levels of patients with essential hypertension. Int. J. Neurosci. 113:1691-1701.
5. Garlic Review by the Linus Pauling Institute
6. Leung, K. P. et al. Intracerebral Haemorrhage and Qigong. Hong Kong Medical Journal 7.3 , pp 315-318, 2001.