Hypertension Research

Yogic meditative techniques are being successfully combined with biofeedback to cure psychosomatic disease. Biofeedback machines monitor the body's response to stimuli and allow us to gain control over autonomic nervous system function by mechanically bringing the normally unconscious brain signals to conscious awareness. Meditative practices, on the other hand, allow one to become conscious of usually unconscious body processes without the aid of machines. The combination of the two techniques gives people who are starting to delve into their bodies and minds a powerful means to manipulate their bodies and to regulate automatic systems such as heart, blood pressure and so on.

In the field of hypertension it has been shown that biofeedback and meditative techniques lower blood pressure, Chandra Patel has obtained experimental evidence which shows the exciting opportunities available to mankind through the techniques of meditation and biofeedback.

In one six week random study, 34 hypertensive patients under, went therapy by yoga relaxation methods with biofeedback or by placebo (general relaxation). Most of the patients were receiving anti-hypertensive drugs.

Both groups reduced their blood pressure, but the yoga treated group showed a significantly greater reduction. The blood pressure of the yoga treated group remained at the reduced level, but returned to at least the initial level in the control group. When the control group was later given yoga relaxation training, their blood pressure readings also fell and remained at the reduced level. In another experiment using biofeedback and meditation 16 out of 20 people reduced their hypertension and lowered their drug intake. Patel states:

‘Yogic relaxation and biofeedback were used in the treatment of 20 patients with hypertension. As a result, anti-hypertensive therapy was stopped altogether in 5 patients and reduced by 33-60% in a further 7 patients. Blood pressure control was better in 4 other patients while the other 4 patients did not respond to therapy. Of these 4, at least one had derived indirect benefit by the relief of migraine and depression. The results of this study promise a useful new approach to the treatment of hypertension.’*1

Patel's treatment program consists of:

  1. Information about hypertension and anti-hypertensive medicines, information about biofeedback and research on the psychological treatment of hypertension.
  2. Individual instruction and training in yoga relaxation, mental awareness through the body, awareness of spontaneous breathing, and repetition of the word 'relaxed' at each expiration. During laboratory training, the subject is connected to a skin resistance feedback (GSR) machine with the instruction to keep a low tone, i.e. high skin resistance, denoting relaxation.
  3. Instruction in the use of relaxation in everyday life such as that used in the laboratory, and encouragement to have regular short periods of relaxation during the day. Other examples are to have a red sign on their watch to remind them to relax each time they want to know the time. Some are told to recall the attitude of relaxation for a moment before answering the telephone.

Patel's results are very promising in all spheres. They are a precise indication of the benefits to be gained from the marriage of the ancient sciences of the east and the modern technologies of the west.

References

* 1. C. Patel, W.R.S. North, ‘Randomised Controlled Trial of Yoga and Biofeedback in Management of Hypertension’ Lancet