January 18, 2021
Although the primary cause of varicose veins is genetic, there is much we can do to slow down the progression of the disease and potentially avoid them all together. Varicose veins are directly linked to a buildup of pressure within the venous system, it therefore stands that anything we can do to address hypertension will minimise our chances of developing varicose veins.
Hypertension is increased pressure in the arteries and veins (vessels that carry blood to and from the heart to the rest of the body), and is a very common issue, with more than 1 million cases per year in the UK alone. Increased pressure in your larger veins (such as the great and small saphenous veins) can then affect the pressure within other smaller veins within the superficial system. This is especially in your legs where pressure in the venous system is greatest. This can cause the veins to bulge through the skin, causing unsightly varicose veins, and the potential for this to progress into more serious venous issues. Around 10% of people suffering from varicose veins will go on to develop more serious and potentially life threatening complications.
Yoga has many beneficial effects on the body, from improving flexibility to strengthening muscles and bones, and it is also known for improving circulation. Regular exercise and meditation can also help with reducing the effects of mental health issues, like stress and anxiety. When your body reacts to stressful situations, it produces a surge of hormones. These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. Although this doesn’t cause long term hypertension, if these random, temporary spikes in your blood pressure occur regularly they can cause damage to your blood vessels, heart and kidneys, in a similar manner to chronic high blood pressure. People who suffer from regular stress or anxiety also tend to engage in unhealthy habits, such as smoking, over-eating and excessive alcohol consumption.
Together, yoga and breathing exercises can effectively contribute to a lower blood pressure, helping your body do its job effectively and reduce the risks of developing venous issues.
There have been a number of studies into the effects of mindfulness (meditation, breathing practices, yoga) on reducing stress in individuals with hypertension, and on the benefits this can have on our quality of life. The overriding results are that meditation and breathing techniques can help to significantly reduce stress levels, which helps lower blood pressure. Practicing yoga alongside this keeps your body moving, keeps you fit and healthy, and helps focus the mind during meditation practice.
Flowing movement helps to move blood to the lower extremities, such as the hands and feet, and back around the body.
Deep or diaphragmatic breathing increases oxygen into the bloodstream, calms the body and mind, and can slow your heart rate to help reduce blood pressure.
Focused breathing and movement help to regulate stress levels by switching on the parasympathetic system. This is one of the body’s nervous systems (alongside the sympathetic) that make up what is called the autonomic nervous system. This is responsible for regulating the body’s unconscious actions.
The process of engaging the muscles in one area and stretching in another area simultaneously is what sets yoga apart from regular exercise. There are many different types of yoga: some classes are fast and energetic, while others are slow and calming. Connecting your breathing alongside performing the poses can have a profound effect on health. Vinyasa is a style of yoga characterised by stringing postures (or ‘asanas‘) together so that you move from one to another, seamlessly, using breath. Yoga Tonic has an excellent breakdown of Vinyasa among many others, and more information and details on their website.
Try vinyasa flow yoga out with Yoga Tonic here!