Yoga could be as effective as a pill at cutting blood pressure, a study suggests.
The research found that volunteers with elevated levels saw improvements after doing just 15 minutes of the activity daily.
Around 12 million adults take drugs for high blood pressure, which is the single biggest trigger of heart disease and stroke.
The new research involved 60 volunteers with raised blood pressure.
Doing just 15 minutes of exercises like the “downward dog” five times a week was found to reduce their readings by around ten per cent.
Scientists said it is a similar drop as patients would see from taking a water pill, which are commonly given for high blood pressure.
Ashok Pandey, a 16-year-old who carried out the study as school project, said participants were either asked to do beginner yoga poses, relaxation, stretching or deep breathing.
After three months, the yoga group saw their blood pressure drop by 9.7 per cent.
Those doing simply deep breathing cut their readings by 7.1 per cent, while stretching reduced it by 4.5 per cent. However just setting aside time to relax had no effect.
His paper, backed by the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre in Canada, was presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.
The school boy said: “The results suggest yoga could be an important tool to reduce blood pressure.
“These are simple poses that don’t require a lot of flexibility and really anyone can do them, so it could be applied on a much broader scale
“A large proportion of the benefit could be attributed to deep breathing.
“It is clinically relevant. It should not be used as a replacement for existing treatments, it’s about incorporating yoga into existing programmes.”
The researcher is now recruiting 500 people to take part in a trial at Laval University.
Dr Paul Poirier, from Laval University, said: “Yoga could be interesting in hypertensive individuals [high blood pressure patients] to better modulate their level of stress and as such blood pressure.”
Heart expert Professor Charalambos Antoniades, from Oxford University, said a diuretic [water pill] – commonly prescribed for the condition – reduces blood pressure by around ten to 20 per cent.
Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation said: “Alternative approaches, such as yoga, could help people with high blood pressure. But they shouldn’t replace proven methods which lower blood pressure, including leading a healthy lifestyle and taking prescribed medications when they’re recommended by a GP.
“This study suggests that some components of yoga, such as deep breathing and stretching, may individually have some blood pressure lowering effects. They’re easy to adopt and unlikely to do any harm.”