Breathing Exercises May
Improve Your Health
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
"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
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.
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
"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