"We think yoga breathing may play some role for lowering blood pressure," Eguchi said, noting that his team will examine the link in upcoming research.
"Also, people with intervention may be more motivated to modify their health behaviors," Eguchi added. "The data showed that the amount of exercise increased in the intervention group, but not in non-intervention group."
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is linked to serious health problems.
Cardiology experts offered mixed reviews of the study's findings.
Dr. Franz Messerli, director of the hypertension program at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, said he was skeptical of the results because the researchers knew all along which participants were in the intervention and control groups.
"The mechanisms involved [in lowering blood pressure] are not entirely clear," Messerli said. "Exercise does the same thing, and just sitting down will lower blood pressure, too."
Messerli said Eguchi could have "objectivated" the results by measuring participants' blood pressure over 24-hour periods before and after intervention sessions.
But Dr. John Ciccone, a preventive cardiologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in West Orange, N.J., contended that the study highlights "interesting physiology" about the role stress plays in blood pressure.
In Ciccone's practice, holistic nurses offer music therapy for stress management, a growing field that can incorporate techniques such as reflexology, acupressure and others, he said.
"I think there has been interesting data that shows that relaxation techniques, regardless of the technique, can possibly affect borderline elevated blood pressure," Ciccone said.
"They're not outside the mainstream anymore," he added. "I think a lot of what was considered alternative is no longer alternative."
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