You may have heard that one of the added benefits of meditation is that it can lower blood pressure. This is because the body experiences a so-called “relaxation response” which involves the blood vessels literally opening up so that blood can flow more freely without the resistance or pressure that goes along with hypertension. Dr. Randy Zusman, of the Massachusetts General Hospital says: “It’s basically a plumbing problem. You’re pushing the same amount of blood through a bigger pipe,”¹ when your body is responding to meditation. Dr. Zusman and his colleagues explored this phenomenon over a 3-month long study² which compared two groups of people with high blood pressure – one group was taught to elicit the relaxation response through meditation while the other group was given information about the effects of stress on blood pressure. By the end of the 3-month period, the group who learned to meditate was more successful at lowering blood pressure and eliminating anti-hypertensive medication use.
¹To Lower Blood Pressure, Open Up and Say ‘Om’, NPR, August 21, 2008 http://www.npr.org/2008/08/21/93796200/to-lower-blood-pressure-open-up-and-say-om
² Dusek, J. A., et al. 2008: Stress management versus lifestyle modification on systolic hypertension and medication elimination: A randomized trial, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14, 129-138.