Metabolic syndrome is intimately associated with stress. Chronic stress raises cortisol levels, leading to central obesity. Chronic stress raises blood pressure. And hypertensive individuals suffering from chronic stress have an increased likelihood of developing heart disease (1). So it stands to reason that those of us with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance need to have some good stress-reduction strategies.
I really enjoy doing Rabbit Pose (sasangasana) for stress reduction. For many years now, I haven't been able to do headstand due to neck problems. Rabbit is my headstand substitute, providing many of the benefits of inversion. Rabbit pose relieves stress on the spine. But most of all, Rabbit Pose provides a womb-like experience of deep grounding and relaxation. I feel a mellow, parasympathetic state induced, which naturally helps lower blood pressure. The crown of my head is sensitive, so I use a lot of padding for my head, so I can enjoy hanging out in the pose. And because of blood pressure medication I'm prone to dizziness, so I have to be careful to come out of the pose gently and slowly. We usually do four repetitions of Rabbit Pose during our daily stretch routine. And our necks and backs are warmed up before we get to Rabbit.
Of course, if your blood pressure is really high, ask your doctor before doing any inversions. People who are new to yoga should see a yoga teacher before trying anything at home. That aside, enjoy rabbit pose!
1. A Path Model of Chronic Stress, the Metabolic Syndrome, and Coronary Heart Disease PETER P. VITALIANO, PHD, JAMES M. SCANLAN, PHD, JIANPING ZHANG, MS, MARGARET V. SAVAGE, PHD, IRL B. HIRSCH, MD, AND ILENE C. SIEGLER, PHD, MPH