Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Yogic Breathing

Improve Autonomic Nervous System Function with Yogic Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The Bhramari pranayama breathing practice . . . .. is beneficial and instantly calming down the mind. It is one of the best breathing exercises to free the mind of distress, anxiety, or frustration and get rid of anger to a great level.” – Alpesh Jain

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) is a yogic breathing practice that adopts simple regulation of voluntary breathing involving an exhalation that simulates the typical humming sound of a bee.

 

Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. It is not known whether training in Bhramari pranayama can be beneficial for adolescents.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of yoga breathing practice on heart rate variability in healthy adolescents: a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997567/), Kuppusamy and colleagues recruited healthy adolescents, 13-18 years of age, and randomly assigned them to either Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) or no treatment. Yogic breathing was practiced in the morning for 30 minutes, 5 days per week for 6 months. The participants electrocardiogram (ECG) was measured at rest before and after training.

 

With the ECG they found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control participants, the adolescents who practiced yogic breathing had significantly lower heart rates and significantly higher time and frequency domains of heart rate variability. Increased heart rate variability indicates greater activity of the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system that is active during relaxation. Hence, the findings suggest that practicing yogic breathing improves autonomic function.

 

Increased heart rate variability is associated with lower stress and greater health and longevity and psychological well-being. Hence, increased heart rate variability in the adolescents who practiced Bhramari pranayama (Bee breathing) is an indicator of improved autonomic function that underlies greater health and well-being. This suggests that practicing yogic breathing would improve the youth’s ability to develop healthily during the turbulent times of the teen years.

 

So, improve autonomic nervous system function with yogic breathing.

 

The noise of bhramari’s buzzing can drown out the endless mental tape loops that can fuel emotional suffering, making it a useful starting point for those whose minds are too “busy” to meditate.” – Timothy McCall

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen, D., Pitani, R., Amaldas, J., Ramasamy, P., Shanmugam, P., & Vijayakumar, V. (2020). Effects of yoga breathing practice on heart rate variability in healthy adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. Integrative medicine research, 9(1), 28–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2020.01.006

 

Abstract

Background

This study was conducted among healthy adolescents to assess the effects of a yoga breathing practice (Bhramari pranayama, Bhr.P) towards cardiac autonomic function using heart rate variability (HRV) parameters.

Methods

Of the 730 eligible subjects screened, 520 healthy adolescents who met the inclusion and exclusion criteria were randomly assigned to either yoga breathing group (n = 260) or control group (n = 260). The yoga breathing group practiced Bhr.P. five days a week for a duration of six months while the control group continued with their daily routine without any intervention. Outcome measures were time and frequency domain of HRV in both groups which were assessed before and after the intervention using Lead II ECG. Linear models were used in the analysis of short term HRV.

Results

After 6 months of yoga breathing, the time domain parameters of short term HRV showed significant (P < 0.05) improvement towards the parasympathetic domain. Frequency domain parameters also showed the same direction of changes. In contrast, control group subjects showed a trend towards a sympathetic domain.

Conclusion

The present study showed a positive shift in cardiac autonomic modulation towards parasympathetic predominance after 6 months of yoga breathing practice among apparently healthy adolescents.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997567/

 

Improve Memory with Brief Breath Awareness Practice

Improve Memory with Brief Breath Awareness Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Our in-breath is like a remote control for our brains, directly affecting electrical signals that communicate with memory and emotional processing centers.” – Crystal Goh

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. There are a number of breathing exercises and there is a need to identify the psychological effects of each.

 

In today’s Research News article “Performance in a Corsi Block-tapping Task following High-frequency Yoga Breathing or Breath Awareness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746049/), Gupta and colleagues recruited young (aged 18-24 years) volunteers who had at least 3 months of experience with yogic breathing techniques. They were randomly assigned to different orders of 3 conditions; high frequency yogic breathing, breath awareness, or quiet sitting. The conditions occurred in 5-minute blocks separated by 1-minute rest.

 

Memory was measured with a Corsi Blocks task in which nine blue squares are presented and then each square changes to yellow in a random sequence. The participants task is to reproduce the sequence in either forward or backward order. The number of blocks changing color began at 2 and increased to 9. The task was terminated when the participant failed twice to reproduce the order of a particular size.

 

They found that neither the high frequency yogic breathing nor the quiet sitting produced a significant change in performance on the Corsi Blocks task. On the other hand, after the breath awareness condition there was a significant improvement in the backward order scores.

 

The study involves only an extremely brief task. It cannot be concluded that breath awareness would have any lasting effect or that training in breath awareness over time would produce lasting memory improvement. Nevertheless, these results suggest that a brief breath awareness practice improves memory ability immediately afterward.

 

So, improve memory with brief breath awareness practice.

 

 

“Don’t try to control your breath. Simply watch it. Fast or slow, shallow or deep, the nature of the breath does not matter. Your full attention to it is what counts.” – Ram Dass

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Gupta, R. K., Agnihotri, S., Telles, S., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Performance in a Corsi Block-tapping Task following High-frequency Yoga Breathing or Breath Awareness. International journal of yoga, 12(3), 247–251. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_55_18

 

Abstract

Background:

Uninostril yoga breathing practices have improved spatial memory scores. There has been no assessment on the effect of high-frequency yoga breathing (HFYB) on working memory and spatial memory scores using the Corsi block-tapping task (CBTT).

Objectives:

The present study was planned to assess the immediate effects of HFYB and breath awareness (BAW) compared to a control session on performance in a CBTT.

Methods:

Fifteen participants of both sexes with ages between 18 and 24 years (group mean age ± standard deviation, 20.0 ± 1.6 years; 10 females) were recruited for the trial from a university in North India. Each participant was assessed in three sessions conducted on 3 separate days at the same time of the day. The three sessions were (i) HFYB, (ii) BAW, and (iii) quiet sitting (QS). The duration of the intervention was 18 min. The participants were assessed before and after all the three sessions. Repeated-measures-analyses of variance followed by post hoc tests with Bonferroni adjustment were performed to compare data before and after all the three sessions.

Results:

BAW resulted in an improvement in backward total scores (P < 0.05) and the backward Corsi span (P < 0.05; one tailed).

Conclusions:

The results suggest that BAW improves primary working memory, spatial memory, and spatial attention. HFYB did not cause any change.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746049/

 

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

Meditation Comes in Seven Different Varieties

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Experienced meditators agree: a daily meditation practice can have significant benefits for mental and physical health. But one thing they probably won’t agree on? The most effective types of meditation. That’s simply because it’s different for everyone. After all, there are literally hundreds of meditation techniques encompassing practices from different traditions, cultures, spiritual disciplines, and religions.” Headspace

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Classically they’ve been characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object. Transcendental meditation is a silent mantra-based focused meditation in which a word or phrase is repeated over and over again. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. In Loving Kindness Meditation the individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

But there are a number of techniques that do not fall into these categories and even within these categories there are a number of large variations. In today’s Research News article “What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/), Matko and colleagues attempt to develop a more comprehensive system of classification. They found 309 different techniques but reduced them down to the 20 most popular ones. They recruited 100 meditators with at least 2 years of experience and asked them to rate how similar each technique was to every other technique.

 

They applied multidimensional scaling to the data which uncovered two dimensions that adequately described all of the 20 techniques. The analysis revealed a dimension of the amount of activation involved and a dimension of the amount of body orientation involved. All 20 techniques were classified within these two dimensions. Visual inspection of where the various techniques fell on the two dimensions produces 7 different clusters labelled as “(1) Body-centered meditation, (2) mindful observation, (3) contemplation, (4) mantra meditation, (5) visual concentration, (6) affect-centered meditation, and (7) meditation with movement.”

 

Within the high activation and low body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “Mantra Meditation” including singing sutras/mantras/invocations, repeating syllables and meditation with sounds. Within the low activation and low body orientation quadrant there were three clusters identified, labelled “affect-centered meditation” including cultivating compassion and opening up to blessings; “visual orientations” including visualizations and concentrating on an object; and “contemplation” including contemplating on a question and contradictions or paradoxes.

 

Within the high activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “meditation with movement” including “meditation with movement, manipulating the breath, and walking and observing senses. Within the low activation and high body orientation quadrant there was one cluster identified, labelled “mindful observation” including observing thoughts, lying meditation, and sitting in silence. Finally, they identified a cluster with high body but straddling the activation dimension, labelled “body centered meditation” including concentrating on a energy centers or channeling, body scan, abdominal breath, nostril breath, and observing the body.

 

This 7-category classification system is interesting and based upon the ratings of experienced meditators. So, there is reason to believe that there is a degree of validity. In addition, the system is able to encompass 20 different popular meditation techniques. It remains for future research to investigate whether this classification system is useful in better understanding the effects of meditation or the underlying brain systems.

 

Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you? “It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice,” – Mira Dessy

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Matko, K., & Sedlmeier, P. (2019). What Is Meditation? Proposing an Empirically Derived Classification System. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2276. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02276

 

Abstract

Meditation is an umbrella term, which subsumes a huge number of diverse practices. It is still unclear how these practices can be classified in a reasonable way. Earlier proposals have struggled to do justice to the diversity of meditation techniques. To help in solving this issue, we used a novel bottom-up procedure to develop a comprehensive classification system for meditation techniques. In previous studies, we reduced 309 initially identified techniques to the 20 most popular ones. In the present study, 100 experienced meditators were asked to rate the similarity of the selected 20 techniques. Using multidimensional scaling, we found two orthogonal dimensions along which meditation techniques could be classified: activation and amount of body orientation. These dimensions emphasize the role of embodied cognition in meditation. Within these two dimensions, seven main clusters emerged: mindful observation, body-centered meditation, visual concentration, contemplation, affect-centered meditation, mantra meditation, and meditation with movement. We conclude there is no “meditation” as such, but there are rather different groups of techniques that might exert diverse effects. These groups call into question the common division into “focused attention” and “open-monitoring” practices. We propose a new embodied classification system and encourage researchers to evaluate this classification system through comparative studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/

 

Reduce Anxiety and Improve Attention in Pre-Teens with Yogic Breathing

Reduce Anxiety and Improve Attention in Pre-Teens with Yogic Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Pranayama is an incredibly effective, important tool to teach children so they can control their energy, their mood, and their impulses.” – Amanda James

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects.

 

The Pre-teen years are transitional between childhood and adolescence. What happens here and what is learned can have a huge impact on the child’s ability to navigate the difficult years of adolescence. It is not known whether training in yogic breathing techniques can be beneficial for pre-teens.

 

In today’s Research News article “Immediate Effect of a Yoga Breathing Practice on Attention and Anxiety in Pre-Teen Children.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678429/), Telles and colleagues recruited healthy pre-teen children (11-12 years of age) who practiced yoga and yogic breathing exercises and randomly assigned them to one of 3 orders of 3 interventions; high frequency yogic breathing, breath awareness, and quiet sitting practiced on successive days. The breathing exercises were practiced at school for 3 3.5-minute periods followed by 1-minute rest. They were measured before and after each session for anxiety and selective attention.

 

They found that there was a significant decrease in anxiety after all 3 interventions. After high frequency yogic breathing there was a significant increase in selective attention, while after breath awareness there was a significant increase in selective attention errors.

 

The reduction in anxiety cannot be definitively ascribed to the yogic exercises as quiet sitting also reduces anxiety. Anxiety reduction may also be due to relief for having finished the task as there was a reduction regardless of task. High frequency yogic breathing is known to produce physiological activation, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. This activation may be responsible for the improved selective attention. On the other hand, breath awareness practice tends to produce relaxation. It is possible that this relaxation reduces vigilance and increases errors in selective attention.

 

There is a need for more research on yogic breathing and its effects on anxiety levels to ascertain if the reduction in anxiety are due to contaminants such as placebo effects or relaxation after task completion. It is important to reduce anxiety in pre-teens as this is a difficult time and high levels of anxiety can interfere with the child’s ability to cope with the challenges. Also, improved selective attention with high frequency yogic breathing may help the pre-teens in their academic endeavors.

 

So, reduce anxiety and improve attention in pre-teens with yogic breathing.

 

kids love working with the breath!! There is so much fun to be had with breathing exercises. They find inner strength and peace, it uplifts them, calms them, and teaches them how to focus in nerve-wracking or anxiety-inducing situations. – Joanne Moules

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Telles, S., Gupta, R. K., Gandharva, K., Vishwakarma, B., Kala, N., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Immediate Effect of a Yoga Breathing Practice on Attention and Anxiety in Pre-Teen Children. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 6(7), 84. doi:10.3390/children6070084

 

Abstract

Pre-teen children face stressors related to their transition from childhood to adolescence, with a simultaneous increase in academic pressure. The present study compared the immediate effects of 18 min of (i) high frequency yoga breathing with (ii) yoga-based breath awareness and (iii) sitting quietly, on (a) attention and (b) anxiety, in 61 pre-teen children (aged between 11 and 12 years; 25 girls). Attention was assessed using a six letter cancellation task and Spielberger’s State Trait Anxiety Inventory STAI-S was used to measure anxiety before and after the three practices, practiced on separate days. Repeated measures ANOVA, followed by Bonferroni adjusted post-hoc analyses showed an increase in total attempts and net scores after high frequency yoga breathing (p < 0.05), while wrong attempts increased after yoga based breath awareness (p < 0.05). Anxiety decreased comparably after all three interventions. The 25 girls in the group had the same trend of results as the whole group with respect to the attention-based cancellation task, while boys showed no, how since change. For both girls and boys, anxiety decreased after all three 18min interventions. The results suggest that high frequency yoga breathing could be a short, useful school based practice to improve attention and reduce anxiety.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678429/

 

Improve Sensory Discrimination with Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing

Improve Sensory Discrimination with Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

alternate nostril breathing, has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga, where it’s thought to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in a balanced in physical, mental and emotional well-being.” – Paula Watkins

 

Yoga practice is becoming increasingly popular in the west, for good reason. It has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to have cognitive benefits, improving memory. Yoga, however, consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, meditation, concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects.

 

Alternate nostril yoga breathing is a regulated breathing alternating between the left and right nostril that is commonly practiced in yoga. Breathing through each nostril is thought to affect its respective hemisphere in the brain producing differential effects. Recently, it has been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase vigilance and reduce perceived stress.

 

In today’s Research News article “Changes in Shape and Size Discrimination and State Anxiety After Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing and Breath Awareness in One Session Each.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6496972/), Telles and colleagues recruited healthy adult males with at least 3 months of yogic breathing practice. They each completed 3 sessions, alternate nostril breathing, breath awareness, and quiet sitting in counterbalanced orders. Each session consisted of three 5-minute practice periods separated by one minute. Before and after each session the participants competed measures of state and trait anxiety and completed a shape and size discrimination task involving inserting “50 coins and squares of different sizes and thickness into 5 slits of a wooden box, where each slit has been especially designed to allow a square or coin of a specific size and thickness to pass through it.”

 

They found that after the alternate nostril breathing session but not breath awareness or quiet sitting sessions there were significantly fewer error on the shape and size discrimination task. On the other hand, after the breath awareness or quiet sitting sessions but not the alternate nostril breathing session there were significantly lower levels of anxiety.

 

It would appear that alternate nostril breathing heightens awareness, increasing vigilance allowing for enhanced sensory discrimination ability while breath awareness and quiet sitting are calming reducing negative emotions. It’s interesting that different approaches to the breath have such large differences in their effects. This suggests that further research into the effects of the individual components of yoga practice may be a fruitful approach to understanding and potentially enhancing the benefits of yoga practice.

 

So, improve sensory discrimination with alternate-nostril yoga breathing.

 

Alternate Nostril Breathing effectively reduces cortisol (stress) levels, increases mental focus, enhances immunity, and decreases depression and anxiety, with quick and lasting effects.” – Art of Living

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Telles, S., Vishwakarma, B., Gupta, R. K., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Changes in Shape and Size Discrimination and State Anxiety After Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing and Breath Awareness in One Session Each. Medical science monitor basic research, 25, 121–127. doi:10.12659/MSMBR.914956

 

Abstract

Background

Yoga breathing techniques like high-frequency yoga breathing (HFYB) and breath awareness (BAW) have been associated with improved performance in the shape and size discrimination task. A PubMed search of the literature revealed that alternate-nostril breathing has been shown to improve performance in attention tasks, but the effect on tactile perception has not been studied. Hence, the present study was designed to assess the immediate effects of alternate-nostril yoga breathing (ANYB) compared to breath awareness on shape and size discrimination and state anxiety.

Material/Methods

Fifty healthy male volunteers ages 20–50 years (group mean ±S.D., 28.4±8.2 years) were recruited. Each participant was assessed in 3 sessions conducted on 3 separate days at the same time of day. The 3 sessions were (i) alternate-nostril yoga breathing (ANYB), (ii) breath awareness (BAW), and (iii) quiet sitting (QS), and the sequence of the sessions was randomly allocated. The shape and size discrimination task and state anxiety were assessed before and after all 3 sessions. Repeated measures analysis of variance (RM-ANOVA) followed by post hoc tests for multiple comparisons, which were Bonferroni-adjusted, were performed to compare data before and after all 3 sessions using SPSS version 18.0.

Results

The errors scores in the shape and size discrimination task showed a significant reduction after the ANYB session (p<0.001). A significant reduction was found in the level of state anxiety after breath awareness (p<0.05) and quiet sitting sessions (p<0.001).

Conclusions

The present results suggest that ANYB: (i) improves performance in a task which requires perceptual sensitivity and focused attention, but (ii) does not reduce state anxiety following this task.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6496972/

 

Improve Sleep in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy with Yoga

Improve Sleep in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Sleep disturbance is a common problem for women with breast cancer, and can have a variety of causes, from stress and depression related to the treatment or diagnosis, to a side effect of some of the drugs and anti-nausea medications used in chemotherapy regimens. Yoga not only produced benefits in the short term, it also produced benefits in sleep quality three months and six months after treatment.” – Paul Raeburn

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including fatiguestress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Yoga practice is a form of mindfulness training that has been shown to be beneficial for cancer patients.  In today’s Research News article “Randomized trial of Tibetan yoga in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5735004/ ), Chaoul and colleagues examine the ability of yoga practice to improve sleep in breast cancer patients.

 

They recruited patients with Stage 1 to 3 breast cancer scheduled to undergo chemotherapy. They were randomly assigned to usual care or to either receive a Tibetan Yoga Program or a stretching program. Participants met for 4, 75 to 90-minute, sessions during chemotherapy and 3 booster sessions over the next 6 months. The participants were also encouraged to practice at home. The Tibetan Yoga Program consisted of “1) mindfulness and focused attention through guided meditation with breathing and visualization; 2) an alternate nostril breathing practice and a breath retention exercise; 3) Tsa Lung movements; and 4) closing with a brief compassion-based meditation.” The participants were measured before and after the programs and 3, 6, and 12 months later for sleep quality, fatigue, and actigraph measured sleep patterns.

 

They found that all groups improved in sleep quality and fatigue over the 12-month measurement period. But the Tibetan Yoga group had significantly less daily sleep disturbances and fewer minutes awake before sleep onset. Hence, participation in the Tibetan Yoga Program had modest benefits for the quality of sleep for the patients. The Tibetan Yoga Program contains a number of different components including meditation, postures, and breathing exercises. It is impossible to determine in the current study which components or which combinations of components were necessary and sufficient for the benefits.

 

These results are encouraging but not clinically significant as the effects were very modest. But,

it should be kept in mind that yoga and meditation programs have been shown to improve a number of other impacts of breast cancer diagnosis and survival. So, the total impact of participation in yoga for breast cancer patients may be much greater than implied by the current results.

 

So, improve sleep in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with yoga.

 

“it is encouraging to see that the women who practiced yoga outside of class had improved sleep outcomes over time. Previous research has established that yoga effectively reduces sleep disturbances for cancer patients, but have not included active control groups or long-term follow-up.” – Lorenzo Cohen

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Chaoul, A., Milbury, K., Spelman, A., Basen-Engquist, K., Hall, M. H., Wei, Q., Shih, Y. T., Arun, B., Valero, V., Perkins, G. H., Babiera, G. V., Wangyal, T., Engle, R., Harrison, C. A., Li, Y., … Cohen, L. (2017). Randomized trial of Tibetan yoga in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Cancer, 124(1), 36-45.

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND

This randomized trial examined the effects of a Tibetan yoga program (TYP) versus a stretching program (STP) and usual care (UC) on sleep and fatigue in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

METHODS

Women with stage I–III breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy were randomized to TYP (n=74), STP (n=68), or UC (n=85) groups. Participants in the TYP and STP groups participated in 4 sessions during chemotherapy, followed by three booster sessions over the subsequent 6 months, and encouraged to practice at home. Self-report measures of sleep disturbances (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) fatigue (Brief Fatigue Inventory), and actigraphy were collected at baseline, 1-week post-treatment, and 3, 6 and 12 months.

RESULTS

There were no group differences in total sleep disturbances or fatigue levels over time. However, patients in TYP reported fewer daily disturbances 1-week post-treatment than STP (difference=−0.43, 95% CI: −0.82, −0.04, P=0.03) and UC (difference=−0.41, 95.5% CI: −0.77, −0.05, P=0.02). Group differences at the other time points were maintained for TYP versus STP. Actigraphy data revealed greater minutes awake after sleep onset for STP 1-week post treatment versus TYP (difference=15.36, 95% CI: 7.25,23.48, P=0.0003) and UC (difference=14.48, 95% CI: 7.09,21.87, P=0.0002). Patients in TYP who practiced at least two times a week during follow-up reported better PSQI and actigraphy outcomes at 3 and 6 months post-treatment than those who did not and better than those in UC.

CONCLUSIONS

Participating in TYP during chemotherapy resulted in modest short-term benefits in sleep quality, with long-term benefits emerging over time for those who practiced TYP at least two times a week.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5735004/

 

Improve Physical and Respiratory Function with Yoga

Improve Physical and Respiratory Function with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Respiration is our primary and most important movement pattern … and also the most dysfunctional.” – Karel Lewit

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state. Breathing exercises are common in yoga practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects.

 

Yoga practice contains a number of different components that are mixed in varying combinations in different yoga practices. They consist of postures, meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises, and chanting. This presents a challenge in interpreting the beneficial effects of yoga practice. It is difficult to determine which component or which combination of components is required for the benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Positive Effects of Yoga on Physical and Respiratory Functions in Healthy Inactive Middle-Aged People.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ ), and colleagues examine the effects of yogic postures and the added benefits of yogic breathing in improving respiratory function in healthy inactive middle-aged people. They recruited inactive non-smoking adults aged 40 to 60 years who were not yoga practitioners and randomly assigned them to receive either training in yoga postures or training in yoga postures plus yogic breathing training. Training occurred in a 70-minute session once a week for 8 weeks. Participants were also provided a DVD for a 7-minute home exercises twice a week. They were measured before and after training for body size and composition, muscle endurance, resting heart rate, flexibility, respiratory function, and respiratory muscle strength.

 

They found both groups after training had significant improvements in muscle endurance, resting heart rate, and upper extremity flexibility. But only the group that had additional breathing exercises had significant improvements in lower extremity flexibility. Both groups had significant improvements in overall pulmonary function, including vital capacity, forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, and peak expiratory flow rate. But only the group that had additional breathing exercises had significant improvements in respiratory muscle strength and maximum inspiratory pressure.

 

The results demonstrated that yoga practice produces improvements in strength and flexibility and in respiratory function. But, adding breathing exercises produces additional benefits in flexibility and respiratory function. The study did not include a control group that performed a different exercise with equivalent intensity. So, it can’t be determined whether the physical improvements were specific to yoga or would have occurred with any equivalent exercise. But they do suggest that practicing yoga has physical benefits for strength, flexibility, and respiratory function, and including yogic breathing exercises helps to maximize the effectiveness of the yoga practice.

 

So, improve physical and respiratory function with yoga.

 

yoga breathing: pranayama. It’s the art of breathing. Taking breathing to the next level. Learning different breathing techniques can add more beneficial oxygen to our bodies, aid in digestion, hone our concentration skills, calm our nerves, and much more.” – Gaiam

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts Yamamoto-Morimoto and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Yamamoto-Morimoto, K., Horibe, S., Takao, R., & Anami, K. (2019). Positive Effects of Yoga on Physical and Respiratory Functions in Healthy Inactive Middle-Aged People. International journal of yoga, 12(1), 62-67.

 

Abstract

Context:

Yoga improves physical and respiratory functions in healthy inactive middle-aged people.

Aim:

This study aimed to assess the effects of 8 weeks of asana and asana with pranayama lessons in order to clarify the influence of two different combinations of yoga practice on physical and respiratory functions in healthy inactive middle-aged people.

Subjects and Methods:

A total of 28 participants (mean age: 52.7 years) were divided into a yoga asana (YA) group and YA with pranayama (YAP) group. Participants attended a 70-min session once a week for 8 weeks. The YA group practiced basic asana without specific breathing instructions, while the YAP group practiced basic asanawith specific breathing instructions (pranayama). Respiratory function was measured with an autospirometer. Physical function assessments included the 30-s chair stand test and upper and lower extremity flexibility. All tests were assessed at baseline and after 8 weeks of intervention.

Statistical Analysis:

Changes in scores were analyzed with the paired t-test for each group. Pre-post results were compared for all the measured values. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results:

Both groups showed significant improvements in physical and overall respiratory functions after the 8-week yoga intervention. However, the maximal inspiratory pressure and lower extremity flexibility improved only in the YAP group.

Conclusions:

The 8-week yoga intervention for healthy inactive middle-aged people improved the overall respiratory and physical functions, and the inclusion of pranayama had the added benefit of improving inspiratory muscle strength and global body flexibility.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/

 

Improve Glaucoma with Meditation

Improve Glaucoma with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“a relaxation program with meditation can lower IOP (intraocular pressure) in glaucoma patients and improve their quality of life by lowering stress hormones like cortisol.” – Tanuj Dada

 

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age, although it can occur at younger ages. It affects over 65 million people worldwide and over 3 million Americans. It involves an abnormally high pressure in the eye that if untreated produces permanent damage to the retina and the optic nerve. It often occurs without other symptoms and can only be detected with measurement of intraocular pressure. Treatments are designed to prevent further damage by lowering intraocular pressure and may involve eyedrops, drugs, laser treatment or surgery. “These therapies are costly and have ocular and systemic side effects that can adversely affect the health-related quality of life of glaucoma patients.”

 

Mindfulness training is known to be able to lower blood pressure. So, it is possible that meditation practice may be useful in the treatment of glaucoma. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Intraocular Pressure, Lowers Stress Biomarkers and Modulates Gene Expression in Glaucoma: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://eyewire.news/articles/study-meditation-an-effective-therapy-to-reduce-eye-pressure-in-primary-open-angle-glaucoma/), Dada and colleagues recruited patients with open-angle Glaucoma who were being treated with prescription eye drops and randomly assigned them to either receive a 3 week, once a day for 60 minutes, program of meditation and yogic breathing exercises or to a wait-list control condition. They were measured before and after treatment for intraocular pressure, quality of life, stress-related serum biomarkers [cortisol, β-endorphins, IL6, TNF-α, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, reactive oxygen species, total antioxidant capacity], and whole genome expression.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control that the Glaucoma patients who meditated had significantly lower intraocular pressure and stress-related serum biomarkers and significantly improved quality of life.  Additionally, meditation significantly reduced the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol levels and increased the levels of beta-endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors and reduced the levels of the pro-inflammatory markers, interleukins. In addition, the greater the decrease in intraocular pressure the greater the improvements in quality of life and the stress-related serum biomarkers. These changes correlated well with gene expression profiling.

 

These are exciting results that suggest that meditation may be a safe and effective treatment for Glaucoma. The reduction in intraocular pressure may reduce further damage to the optic nerve and help to preserve the remaining vision of the patients. Further the reduction in stress hormones and inflammation suggests an overall improvement in the patient’s health.

 

Meditation appears to produce these benefits by reducing the physiological responses to stress. This makes sense as stress has been shown to be highly related to the development of Glaucoma and mindfulness practices are well known to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. The authors speculate that the relaxation produced by meditation and yogic breathing exercises is responsible for the benefits. Regardless of the mechanism, the findings indicate that meditation practice may be a treatment to slow further visual degeneration and improve the lives of Glaucoma sufferers,

 

So, improve glaucoma with meditation.

 

“When scientists asked 45 glaucoma patients to try mindfulness meditation for an hour a day for three weeks they discovered that the pressure in their eyes lowered by 25 per cent  compared to patients who stuck to eye drops.” Sarah Knapton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Dada, Tanuj, Mittal, Deepti, Mohanty, Kuldeep, Faiq, Muneeb A., Bhat, Muzaffer A., Yadav, Raj K., Sihota, Ramanjit, Sidhu, Talvir, Velpandian, Thirumurthy, Kalaivani, Mani, Pandey, Ravindra M., Gao, Ying, Sabel, Bernhard A., Dada, Rima. Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Intraocular Pressure, Lowers Stress Biomarkers and Modulates Gene Expression in Glaucoma: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Glaucoma: December 2018 – Volume 27 – Issue 12 – p 1061–1067. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000001088

 

Background: Reducing intraocular pressure (IOP) in primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is currently the only approach to prevent further optic nerve head damage. However, other mechanisms such as ischemia, oxidative stress, glutamate excitotoxicity, neurotrophin loss, inflammation/glial activation, and vascular dysregulation are not addressed. Because stress is a key risk factor affecting these mechanisms, we evaluated whether mindfulness-based stress reduction can lower IOP and normalize typical stress biomarkers.

Materials and Methods: In a prospective, randomized trial 90 POAG patients (180 eyes; age above 45 y) were assigned to a waitlist control or mindfulness meditation group which practiced daily for 21 days. We measured IOP (primary endpoint), quality of life (QOL), stress-related serum biomarkers [cortisol, β-endorphins, IL6, TNF-α, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), reactive oxygen species (ROS), total antioxidant capacity (TAC)], and whole genome expression.

Results: Between-group comparisons revealed significantly lowered IOP in meditators (OD: 18.8 to 12.7, OS 19.0 to 13.1 mm Hg) which correlated with significantly lowered stress-biomarker levels including cortisol (497.3 to 392.3 ng/mL), IL6 (2.8 to 1.5 ng/mL), TNF-α (57.1 to 45.4 pg/mL), ROS (1625 to 987 RLU/min/104 neutrophils), and elevated β-endorphins (38.4 to 52.7 pg/mL), BDNF (56.1 to 83.9 ng/mL), and TAC (5.9 to 9.3) (all P<0.001). These changes correlated well with gene expression profiling. Meditators improved in QOL (P<0.05).

Conclusions: A short course of mindfulness-based stress reduction by meditation in POAG, reduces IOP, improves QOL, normalizes stress biomarkers, and positively modifies gene expression. Mindfulness meditation can be recommended as adjunctive therapy for POAG.

https://eyewire.news/articles/study-meditation-an-effective-therapy-to-reduce-eye-pressure-in-primary-open-angle-glaucoma/

 

Improve Response Inhibition with Yogic Breathing

Improve Response Inhibition with Yogic Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“At its core YOGA is early study of human psychology. For me, to be curious about yoga is to be curious about yourself, and about other people…I’m curious about YOU! I’m interested in the way our community responds, and more importantly how we behave, IN REAL LIFE.” – Erica Mather

 

Mindfulness practices such as meditationyoga, and tai chi/qigong have been shown to have a myriad of positive benefits for the practitioner and they have been shown to alter a large variety of cognitive (thought) processes, such as attentional ability, memory, verbal fluency, critical thinking, learning, analytic thinking, mathematical ability, higher level (meta-cognitive) thinking, and cognitive reappraisal. A very important cognitive ability for the control of behavior is response inhibition. This is the ability to restrain or withhold an inappropriate behavior when necessary. This ability is particularly underdeveloped in adolescents frequently resulting in impulsive behavior.

 

In today’s Research News article “Immediate effects of yoga breathing with intermittent breath holding on response inhibition among healthy volunteers.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=2;spage=99;epage=104;aulast=Saoji ), Saoji and colleagues examine the ability of yoga breathing practices to improve short-term response inhibition. Yoga practitioners between the ages of 18 – 25 years were recruited and participated in 8 weeks of breathing practice followed by baseline assessment. On separate days the participants engaged in either a 40-minute conditions of yoga breathing with intermittent breath holding or yoga breathing with breath awareness.

 

Yoga breathing with intermittent breath holding included the regulated yogic breathing for 20 min incorporating phases of inhalation, internal retention of breath, exhalation, and external retention of breath. Yoga breathing with breath awareness involved normal breathing while attending to the breath. At baseline and immediately after the breathing sessions they participated in a Go – No Go task where they pressed keys in response to stimuli unless a No Go signal was presented after the stimulus in which case they were to not respond; inhibit responding.

 

They found that after both the Yogic breathing with breath awareness condition and the Yogic breathing with intermittent breath holding condition the participants demonstrated significantly improved performance in the No Go condition but not the Go condition. This suggests that after either breathing sessions response inhibition was enhanced but not simple responding. This is an interesting result, but it does not demonstrate that the breathing condition was responsible as any attention task may have produced similar results. So, future work needs to include alternative attentional tasks not involving breathing. Nevertheless, the results suggest that short-term yogic breathing may be beneficial to the practitioner in improving their ability to withhold responses when appropriate.

 

So, improve response inhibition with yogic breathing.

 

a growing number of scientific studies suggest that yoga may enhance students’ mind-body awareness, self-regulation, and physical fitness which may, in turn, promote improved behavior, mental state, health, and performance ” – Bethany Butzer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Saoji AA, Raghavendra B R, Rajesh S K, Manjunath N K. Immediate effects of yoga breathing with intermittent breath holding on response inhibition among healthy volunteers. Int J Yoga 2018;11:99-104

 

Abstract
Background: There is very little evidence available on the effects of yoga-based breathing practices on response inhibition. The current study used stop-signal paradigm to assess the effects of yoga breathing with intermittent breath holding (YBH) on response inhibition among healthy volunteers. Materials and Methods: Thirty-six healthy volunteers (17 males + 19 females), with mean age of 20.31 ± 3.48 years from a university, were recruited in a within-subject repeated measures (RM) design. The recordings for stop signal task were performed on three different days for baseline, post-YBH, and post yogic breath awareness (YBA) sessions. Stop-signal reaction time (SSRT), mean reaction time to go stimuli (go RT), and the probability of responding on-stop signal trials (p [r/s]) were analyzed for 36 volunteers using RM analysis of variance. Results: SSRT reduced significantly in both YBH (218.33 ± 38.38) and YBA (213.15 ± 37.29) groups when compared to baseline (231.98 ± 29.54). No significant changes were observed in go RT and p (r/s). Further, the changes in SSRT were not significantly different among YBH and YBA groups. Conclusion: Both YBH and YBA groups were found to enhance response inhibition in the stop-signal paradigm. YBH could be further evaluated in clinical settings for conditions where response inhibition is altered.

http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=2;spage=99;epage=104;aulast=Saoji

 

Reduce Blood Pressure and Improve Vigilance with Yogic Alternative Nostril Breathing

Reduce Blood Pressure and Improve Vigilance with Yogic Alternative Nostril Breathing

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body.” – Art of Living

 

Yoga practice is becoming increasingly popular in the west, for good reason. It has documented benefits for the individual’s psychological and physical health and well-being. It has also been shown to have cognitive benefits, improving memory. Yoga, however, consists of a number of components including, poses, breathing exercises, meditation, concentration, and philosophy/ethics.  So, it is difficult to determine which facet or combination of facets of yoga are responsible for which benefit. Hence, it is important to begin to test each component in isolation to determine its effects.

 

Alternate nostril yoga breathing is a regulated breathing alternating between the left and right nostril. Breathing through each nostril is thought to affect its respective hemisphere in the brain producing differential effects. In today’s Research News article “Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing Reduced Blood Pressure While Increasing Performance in a Vigilance Test.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5755948/ ), Telles and colleagues recruited male college students and had them practice either Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing, Breath Awareness, or quiet rest for 18 minutes on three separate days in random order. The participants were measured before and after each practice for blood pressure and vigilance. To measure vigilance, they had the participants perform a digit vigilance test in which they were asked to cancel the numbers 6 and 9 from a page of 1500 random digits and recorded the time to complete the task and the number of errors made.

 

They found that compared to baseline and the control conditions of breath awareness and quiet sitting there was a significant reduction in systolic and arterial blood pressure following alternate nostril breathing. They also found that after alternate nostril breathing there was a significant reduction in the time to complete the vigilance task. But, this was also true for the quiet sitting condition. Hence, alternate nostril breathing appears to reduce the level of activation and improve vigilance. But, the improvement in vigilance may be simply due to the rest provided by the task. This suggests that yoga practice has its beneficial effects, in part, by the ability of the breathing practices to reduce physiological activation.

 

So, reduce blood pressure and improve vigilance with yogic alternative nostril breathing.

 

“Alternate Nostril Breathing: This simple yet most powerful technique is a pranayama that is easy to do, and it creates a deep sense of well-being and harmony on the physical, mental, and emotional levels. It is integrating and grounding, and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain.” – Yogi Bhajan

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Shirley Telles, Sadhana Verma, Sachin Kumar Sharma, Ram Kumar Gupta, Acharya Balkrishna. Alternate-Nostril Yoga Breathing Reduced Blood Pressure While Increasing Performance in a Vigilance Test. Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2017; 23: 392–398. Published online 2017 Dec 29. doi: 10.12659/MSMBR.906502

 

Abstract

Background

Reports suggest that vigilance or sustained attention increases sympathetic activity. A persistent increase in sympathetic activity can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Alternate-nostril yoga breathing has been shown to be useful to (i) improve attention and (ii) decrease the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Earlier studies did not report simultaneous recordings of the blood pressure and performance in vigilance tests after alternate-nostril yoga breathing. With this background, the present study was planned to determine if 15 minutes of alternate nostril yoga breathing could improve the performance in a vigilance test without an increase in blood pressure.

Material/Methods

Fifteen healthy male volunteers participated in the study (group mean age ±SD, 22.4±2.4 years). Participants were assessed on 3 separate days in 3 different sessions. These were (i) alternate nostril yoga breathing, (ii) breath awareness, and (iii) sitting quietly as a control. Blood pressure and the digit vigilance test were simultaneously assessed before and after each session.

Results

Systolic blood pressure (p<0.01), mean arterial blood pressure (p<0.05), and the time taken to complete the digit vigilance test (p<0.05) significantly decreased following alternate-nostril yoga breathing. The time taken to complete the digit vigilance test differed significantly between sessions (p<0.05). The time taken to complete the digit vigilance test was also significantly decreased after sitting quietly (p<0.01).

Conclusions

Alternate-nostril yoga breathing appears to improve performance in the digit vigilance test, along with a reduction in systolic blood pressure. This is suggestive of better vigilance without sympathetic activation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5755948/