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Breathing Exercises May
Improve Your Health
Excerpt By Jeff Carpenter ABCNEWS.com

Reciting the rosary and practicing yoga may have something in common that could make you feel better - deep breathing.

According to a new study in the most recent issue of the British Medical Journal , activities like these that promote slow and deep breathing can positively alter many of the body's vital signs.

"There is a great deal of evidence built up over the last 30 years that breathing exercises are extraordinarily important in health and well being," said Dr. Herbert Benson, president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston.

The 23 test subjects were told to either recite the rosary in Latin or to repeat a typical yoga mantra that they were taught by an instructor unfamiliar with the study. At no time were the subjects told how long they should take to perform the tasks.

The results of the study found that the slow deep breathing associated with these practices synchronized the subject's cardiovascular rhythms, leading to favorable psychological as well as physiological effects.

Timing is Everything

It's the timing involved in reciting the rosary and yoga mantra, rather than the practice of prayer or meditation itself, that is responsible for the benefits shown in the study, believes Dr. Luciano Bernardi, the lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pavia in Italy.

Humans have rhythmic fluctuations in their circulatory system in what has been found to be a 10 second cycle, or six times per minute. This study found that both yoga and the rosary caused people to breathe in precisely the same rhythm — six breaths per minute as opposed to 14 for normal breathing.

"We know slow deep breathing indeed has some benefit," said Bernardi. "If you breathe slower and deeper then you can take more oxygen into your blood."

Bernardi adds that this practice has been used on patients with heart failure, and has been effective in improving irregular breathing as well as increasing calmness and wellbeing. Regular practice of these techniques can also reduce the normal breathing rate, suggesting more than just a short-term effect.

Relaxation Response

Benson explains that the body has both a stress response and a relaxation response. The stress response is the cause of many illnesses and often serves to exacerbate others, whereas, the relaxation response can alleviate the problems of stress.

In order to harness the beneficial effects of the relaxation response, Benson suggests a simple two-step process similar to the practice of prayer and meditation. First, is the repetition of a word, or phrase, or even a muscular activity. Second, is to ignore other thoughts that may come to mind and continue the repetition.

"Virtually all of these techniques throughout history have been related to breathing practices," said Benson.

Adds Bernardi: "So, as a matter of fact it looks like this is a type of health practice, just as people do jogging."


Reference Source 104

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