Normalize Heart Rate Processes with Yoga Practice

Normalize Heart Rate Processes with Yoga Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Heart Rate Variability is the ability of the heart rate to change from beat to beat., which is based off the activity of the nervous system. HRV is a more accurate measure of a person’s health than examining only the heart rate.” – Zelinda Yañez

 

In our lives we are confronted with a variety of situations and environments. In order to successfully navigate these differing situations, we must be able to adapt and self-regulate. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is designed to adapt physiologically to the varying demands on us. It is composed of 2 divisions; the sympathetic division underlies activation, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, while the parasympathetic division underlies relaxation, including decreases in heart rate and blood pressure. A measure of the balance between these systems is provided by the variability of the heart rate.

 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the change in the time intervals between consecutive heart beats. Higher levels of HRV are indicative of flexibility in the Autonomic Nervous System and are associated with adaptability to varying environments. Mindfulness has been associated with psychological flexibility and a greater ability to adapt appropriately to differing situations. Indeed, mindfulness practice improves Heart Rate Variability (HRV). It makes sense to determine if yoga practice can also improve heart rate variability.

 

In today’s Research News article “Changes in Heart Rate Variability after Yoga are Dependent on Heart Rate Variability at Baseline and during Yoga: A Study Showing Autonomic Normalization Effect in Yoga-Naïve and Experienced Subjects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336948/) Shinba and colleagues recruited adults who were either experienced yoga practitioners or yoga naïve. The engaged in 20 minutes of seated breath awareness and yogic breathing exercises. Their electrocardiogram heart rates were recorded before, during, and after the practice.

 

They found that the low frequency component of heart rate variability and the ratio of the low frequency to the high frequency component were normalized after yoga practice such that when the baseline levels were low the components increased as a result of yoga practice and when the baseline levels were high the components decreased. No significant changes in the high frequency component was observed.

 

The results do not replicate previous findings that yoga practice increases the high frequency component of heart rate variability reflecting an increase in parasympathetic activity which is associated with physiological relaxation. This lack of replication may be due to the brevity of the practice or to the nature of the practice where only breath awareness and breathing exercises were included. It is possible that more active components such as postures are needed to produce increases in parasympathetic activity.

 

The low frequency component of heart rate variability reflects the regulation of the heart rate based upon blood pressure. This reflects the maintenance of an adequate blood flow at all times. Hence, the present brief breath-oriented yoga practice appears to regularize blood flows. This, in turn, may reflect an increased ability of the physiology to deal with stresses.

 

So, normalize heart rate processes with yoga practice.

 

“HRV is an interesting and noninvasive way to identify these ANS imbalances. If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility.” – Marcelo Campos

 

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

 

Shinba, T., Inoue, T., Matsui, T., Kimura, K. K., Itokawa, M., & Arai, M. (2020). Changes in Heart Rate Variability after Yoga are Dependent on Heart Rate Variability at Baseline and during Yoga: A Study Showing Autonomic Normalization Effect in Yoga-Naïve and Experienced Subjects. International journal of yoga, 13(2), 160–167. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_39_19

 

Abstract

Background:

Yoga therapy is widely applied to the maintenance of health and to treatment of various illnesses. Previous researches indicate the involvement of autonomic control in its effects, although the general agreement has not been reached regarding the acute modulation of autonomic function.

Aim:

The present study aimed at revealing the acute effect of yoga on the autonomic activity using heart rate variability (HRV) measurement.

Methods:

Twenty-seven healthy controls participated in the present study. Fifteen of them (39.5 ± 8.5 years old) were naïve and 12 (45.1 ± 7.0 years old) were experienced in yoga. Yoga skills included breath awareness, two types of asana, and two types of pranayama. HRV was measured at the baseline, during yoga, and at the resting state after yoga.

Results:

In both yoga-naïve and experienced participants, the changes in low-frequency (LF) component of HRV and its ratio to high-frequency (HF) component (LF/HF) after yoga were found to be correlated negatively with the baseline data. The changes in LF after yoga were also correlated with LF during yoga. The changes in HF as well as the raw HRV data after yoga were not related to the baseline HRV or the HRV during yoga.

Conclusion:

The results indicate that yoga leads to an increase in LF when LF is low and leads to a decrease in LF when it is high at the baseline. This normalization of LF is dependent on the autonomic modulation during yoga and may underlie the clinical effectiveness of yoga therapy both in yoga-naïve and experienced subjects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336948/

 

Lower Heart Rate and Increase its Variability with Meditation

Lower Heart Rate and Increase its Variability with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.” – Marcelo Campos

 

In our lives we are confronted with a variety of situations and environments. In order to successfully navigate these differing situations, we must be able to adapt and self-regulate. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is designed to adapt physiologically to the varying demands on us. It is composed of 2 divisions; the sympathetic division underlies activation, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, while the parasympathetic division underlies relaxation, including decreases in heart rate and blood pressure. A measure of the balance between these systems is provided by the variability of the heart rate.

 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the change in the time intervals between consecutive heart beats. Higher levels of HRV are indicative of flexibility in the Autonomic Nervous System and are associated with adaptability to varying environments. Mindfulness has been associated with psychological flexibility and a greater ability to adapt appropriately to differing situations. It makes sense then to investigate the relationship of mindfulness to and Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

 

In today’s Research News article “Meditation Practice Improves Short-Term Changes in Heart Rate Variability.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142551/), Chang and colleagues performed 2 experiments. In the first, they recruited healthy meditation naïve adults and presented them with a 90-minute class on meditation including practice in a face to face setting once a week for 4 weeks. In the second experiment experienced meditators were recruited and received once a week for 4 weeks the 90-minute class on meditation including practice presented on video. The participants wore wrist heart rate monitors and were measured over the course of the study for heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure.

 

They found that both the meditation naïve participants with face to face instruction and the experienced meditators with video instruction had significant decreases over the course of the study in heart rate and significant increases in heart rate variability. Increased heart rate variability signals greater relaxation in the autonomic nervous system with a predominance of parasympathetic (relaxation) activity over sympathetic (activation) activity. The results make sense as parasympathetic activity tends to decrease heart rate. This all signals greater physiological relaxation

 

There was no control condition in the present study. So, the experiment is open to confounding by demand characteristics, experimenter bias, expectancy (placebo) effect etc. But prior randomized controlled studies have also observed that mindfulness training reduces heart rate and increases heart rate variability. So, the present results are likely due to the meditation practice. This increase in parasympathetic activity produced by meditation training may explain why mindfulness training is effective in treating cardiovascular diseases, in overall reducing the deleterious effects of stress and producing increased relaxation.

 

So, lower heart rate and increase its variability with meditation.

 

meditation may improve your heart’s recovery from stress as demonstrated by improved Heart Rate Variability (HRV).” – Sam Sly

 

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

 

Chang, K. M., Wu Chueh, M. T., & Lai, Y. J. (2020). Meditation Practice Improves Short-Term Changes in Heart Rate Variability. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(6), 2128. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17062128

 

Abstract

Background: It is well known that meditation improves the physical and psychological condition of its practitioners. This study investigated the heart rate variability response of meditation practitioners in two Chan master teaching environments, namely face-to-face and video classes. Methods: Experimental sessions were conducted, one featuring face-to-face classes and the other featuring video classes. The difference in participants’ physiological parameters (blood pressure and heart rate variability) between the two experimental sessions was determined. In the first session, physiological parameters were recorded twice, before and after one teaching course, and the second session took place one month after the first. The first and second sessions had 45 and 27 participants, respectively. Those involved in the first experiment had no experience with meditation, whereas participants in the second experiment had practiced meditation for an average of 9 years (range = 1 to 27 years). Both experiments were conducted once a week, with each session lasting 1.5 h. Results: For both experiments, both heart rate and heart rate variability by age significantly decreased after one teaching course. Conclusions: Chan meditation practitioners benefit from receiving both face-to-face and video class teaching from a Chan master.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142551/

 

Improve Self-Compassion with Psychophysiological Flexibility and Mindfulness

Improve Self-Compassion with Psychophysiological Flexibility and Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, coping with life challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and more satisfying personal relationships. It is an inner strength that enables us to be more fully human—to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and make necessary changes with an attitude of kindness and self-respect.” – Greater Good Science Center

 

One of the more remarkable aspects of Western culture is that in general people do not like themselves. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and since there can only one best, virtually everyone falls short. So, we constantly criticize ourselves for not being the smartest, the swiftest, the strongest, the most liked, the most handsome or beautiful. If there wasn’t something wrong with us, then we would be the best. As a result, we become focused and obsessed with our flaws. This can lead to anxiety and worry.

 

Mindfulness promotes experiencing and accepting ourselves as we are, which is a direct antidote to seeing ourselves in comparison to others and as we wish to be. In other words, mindfulness promotes self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding about ourselves rather than self-criticism. If we have that attitude, we will like ourselves more and suffer less. So, it is important to study the mindfulness and self-compassion and their relationships with the ability to regulate emotional arousal.

 

In today’s Research News article “Is Dispositional Self-Compassion Associated With Psychophysiological Flexibility Beyond Mindfulness? An Exploratory Pilot Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A), Svendsen and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete scales measuring self-compassion, mindfulness, anxiety, and rumination. They also had their cardiac function measured at rest with an electrocardiogram (ECG). This was used to calculate the vagally mediated heart rate variability as a measure of psychophysiological flexibility. It measures the interplay between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, with higher heart rate variability signaling parasympathetic predominance, usually indicating relaxation.

 

Employing regression analysis, they found that the higher the levels of self-compassion the higher the levels of mindfulness and psychophysiological flexibility. They also found that both higher levels of mindfulness and also self-compassion the lower the levels of anxiety and rumination (worry). So, mindfulness is related to self-compassion and lower anxiety and rumination and self-compassion is related to mindfulness and psychophysiological flexibility and lower anxiety and rumination.

 

The findings are correlative and as such causation cannot be determined. But they show that mindfulness is significantly related to self-compassion and both are related to better mental health. In prior manipulative studies, it has been demonstrated that mindfulness causes increased self-compassion and decreased anxiety and rumination. So, the present results likely reflect causal connections.

 

The results also demonstrated that self-compassion has the strongest relationship with psychophysiological flexibility suggesting that self-compassion is related to the ability to regulate emotional arousal. It is this ability that may underlie the lower levels of anxiety and rumination found with high levels of self-compassion. Hence, mindfulness and self-compassion are important components of the mental health of young adults.

 

So, improve self-compassion with psychophysiological flexibility and mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for oneself, and that such attitudes are good for you. To me, that affirms that when we practice mindfulness, we are simultaneously strengthening our skills of compassion.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

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

 

Svendsen JL, Schanche E, Osnes B, Vøllestad J, Visted E, Dundas I, Nordby H, Binder P-E and Sørensen L (2020) Is Dispositional Self-Compassion Associated With Psychophysiological Flexibility Beyond Mindfulness? An Exploratory Pilot Study. Front. Psychol. 11:614. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614

 

Abstract

Background: Dispositional mindfulness and self-compassion are shown to associate with less self-reported emotional distress. However, previous studies have indicated that dispositional self-compassion may be an even more important buffer against such distress than dispositional mindfulness. To our knowledge, no study has yet disentangled the relationship between dispositional self-compassion and mindfulness and level of psychophysiological flexibility as measured with vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV). The aim was thus to provide a first exploratory effort to expand previous research relying on self-report measures by including a psychophysiological measure indicative of emotional stress reactivity.

Methods: Fifty-three university students filled out the “Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire” (FFMQ) and the “Self-Compassion Scale” (SCS), and their heart rate was measured during a 5 min resting electrocardiogram. Linear hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the common and unique variance explained by the total scores of the FFMQ and the SCS on level of resting vmHRV.

Results: Higher SCS total scores associated significantly with higher levels of vmHRV also when controlling for the FFMQ total scores. The SCS uniquely explained 7% of the vmHRV. The FFMQ total scores did not associate with level of vmHRV.

Conclusion: These results offer preliminary support that dispositional self-compassion associates with better psychophysiological regulation of emotional arousal above and beyond mindfulness

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00614/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1302118_69_Psycho_20200416_arts_A

 

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

On average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators, and an additional 1 month and 22 days younger for every year after 50.”Grace Bullock

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A), Tang and colleagues recruited healthy older participants who practiced for an hour a day 6 – 7 days a week for 12 years either physical exercise, aerobic walking, or integrated mind-body training, including body relaxation, mental imagery and mindfulness training. The participants underwent brain imaging with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They had their heart rate, respiration. and skin conductance recorded during a fitness exercise session. Salivary Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), an index of mucosal immunity and Cortisol levels, an index of stress, were measured at rest, during stress, and during training. They also completed scales measuring general health and quality of life.

 

They found that the mindfulness group had significantly higher resting heart rate and respiration, high frequency heart rate variability, quality of life, and sIgA levels and significantly lower cortisol levels and skin conductance than the exercise group. In addition, they found that the mindfulness group compared to the exercise group had significantly larger brain striatum including the caudate and putamen and significantly greater functional connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the striatum and also the insula.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that long-term mindfulness practice results in differences in the psychological, physical, and neural states compared to physical exercise. Psychological well-being improvement in the mindfulness group was suggested by the greater reported quality of life. Physiological improvements in the mindfulness group were suggested by greater relaxation as indexed by greater autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic activity and measured by heart rate variability and skin conductance and lower stress hormone, cortisol, levels. The greater volume of the striatum and greater connectivity with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex also suggest greater physiological relaxation. The mindfulness group also showed greater immune system function as indexed by sIgA levels. On the other hand, the aerobic walking group demonstrated greater physical fitness as indexed by lower resting heart rate and respiration.

 

In sum, these findings suggest the long-term aerobic walking exercise is good for the physical fitness of older adults. But long-term mindfulness training is better for their overall psychological and physical well-being. These results correspond with other prior findings that shorter-term mindfulness practice results in greater autonomic relaxation, quality of life, and neuroplastic changes in brain systems and that this training reduces the physiological and psychological deterioration occurring with aging.

 

So, improve the aging brain and well-being with mindfulness training.

 

“Mind and body practices, in particular, including relaxation techniques and meditative exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are being used by older Americans, both for fitness and relaxation, and because of perceived health benefits.” –  National Center for Complementayy and Integrative Health

 

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

 

Tang Y-Y, Fan Y, Lu Q, Tan L-H, Tang R, Kaplan RM, Pinho MC, Thomas BP, Chen K, Friston KJ and Reiman EM (2020) Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population. Front. Psychol. 11:358. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358

 

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that physical exercise and mindfulness meditation can both lead to improvement in physical and mental health. However, it is unclear whether these two forms of training share the same underlying mechanisms. We compared two groups of older adults with 10 years of mindfulness meditation (integrative body-mind training, IBMT) or physical exercise (PE) experience to demonstrate their effects on brain, physiology and behavior. Healthy older adults were randomly selected from a large community health project and the groups were compared on measures of quality of life, autonomic activity (heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance response, respiratory amplitude/rate), immune function (secretory Immunoglobulin A, sIgA), stress hormone (cortisol) and brain imaging (resting state functional connectivity, structural differences). In comparison with PE, we found significantly higher ratings for the IBMT group on dimensions of life quality. Parasympathetic activity indexed by skin conductance response and high-frequency heart rate variability also showed more favorable outcomes in the IBMT group. However, the PE group showed lower basal heart rate and greater chest respiratory amplitude. Basal sIgA level was significantly higher and cortisol concentration was lower in the IBMT group. Lastly, the IBMT group had stronger brain connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the striatum at resting state, as well as greater volume of gray matter in the striatum. Our results indicate that mindfulness meditation and physical exercise function in part by different mechanisms, with PE increasing physical fitness and IBMT inducing plasticity in the central nervous systems. These findings suggest combining physical and mental training may achieve better health and quality of life results for an aging population.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A

 

Lower Opioid Cravings are Associated with Lower Depression, Higher Self-Regulation, and Higher Mindfulness

Lower Opioid Cravings are Associated with Lower Depression, Higher Self-Regulation, and Higher Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness-based interventions could help people dependent on opioids increase their self-awareness and self-control over cravings and be less reactive to emotional and physical pain.” – Science Daily

 

Substance abuse and addiction is a terrible problem, especially opioid pain relievers. Opioid addiction has become epidemic and is rapidly increasing affecting more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 15 million people worldwide. In the U.S more than 20,000 deaths yearly were attributed to an overdose of prescription opioids, and another 13,000 deaths from heroin overdose. These statistics, although startling are only the tip of the iceberg. Drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. It can render the individual ineffective at work, it tears apart families, it makes the individual dangerous both driving and not.

 

An effective treatment for addiction has been elusive. Most programs and therapies to treat addictions have poor success rates. Recent research is indicating that mindfulness has been found to be effective in treating addictions. One way that mindfulness may produce these benefits is by reducing cravings for opioids. It may also do so by affecting the ability of the addict to regulate their emotions. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve emotional regulation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Autonomic and affective mediators of the relationship between mindfulness and opioid craving among chronic pain patients. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355352/), Baker and Garland recruited non-cancer chronic pain patients who were taking opioid analgesics and had them complete self-report measures of mindfulness, opioid craving, and depression. They also measured their heart rates with an electrocardiogram (ECG) while looking at either neutral pictures or “opioid-related image (e.g., pills, pill bottles).” These data were analyzed to determine heart rate variability as a measure of the activity of the peripheral autonomic nervous system.

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of heart rate variability while looking at opioid-related pictures. And the lower the levels of depression and opioid cravings. Also, the higher the levels of depression, the higher the levels of opioid cravings. Employing a multivariate path analysis, they found that mindfulness was not associated with lower opioid cravings directly, but indirectly via mindfulness’ associations with heart rate variability and depression. That is, they found that mindfulness was associated with higher heart rate variability which was in turn associated with lower opioid cravings and also with lower depression which was in turn associated with lower opioid cravings.

 

Heart rate variability is thought to measure the nervous systems adjustments to the physiology involved in regulating its physical responses to stimuli. In other words, it’s a measure of self-regulation. The present results suggest that mindfulness is associated with greater self-regulation and this is associated with lower cravings for opioids. The results also suggest that depression is associated with higher cravings for opioids and that mindfulness interrupts this by being associated with lower depression.

 

These results are correlative and as such causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, prior research has demonstrated causal links between mindfulness and lower cravings and depression. So, the present results likely result from causal connections. The findings also suggest the mechanism whereby mindfulness may lower cravings by contributing to the ability to regulate physical responses to opioid-related stimuli and by reducing depression. These results provide more support for the use of mindfulness training as a treatment for addictions.

 

So, lower opioid cravings are associated with lower depression, higher self-regulation, and higher mindfulness.

 

people suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings and less pain when adding mindfulness to the traditional methadone treatment.” – Grace Bullock

 

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

 

Baker, A. K., & Garland, E. L. (2019). Autonomic and affective mediators of the relationship between mindfulness and opioid craving among chronic pain patients. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 27(1), 55–63. https://doi.org/10.1037/pha0000225

 

Abstract

Prescription opioid misuse among chronic pain patients is associated with self-regulatory deficits, affective distress and opioid cue reactivity. Dispositional mindfulness has been associated with enhanced self-regulation, lower distress, and adaptive autonomic responses following drug cue exposure. We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness might serve as a protective factor among opioid-treated chronic pain patients. We examined heart rate variability (HRV) during exposure to opioid cues and depressed mood as mediators of the association between dispositional mindfulness and opioid craving. Data were obtained from a sample of chronic pain patients (N=115) receiving long-term opioid pharmacotherapy. Participants self-reported opioid craving and depression, and HRV was measured during an opioid-cue dot probe task. Dispositional mindfulness was significantly positively correlated with HRV, and HRV was significantly inversely associated with opioid craving. Dispositional mindfulness was significantly negatively correlated with depression, and depression was significantly positively correlated with opioid craving. Path analysis revealed significant indirect effects of dispositional mindfulness on craving through both HRV and depression. Dispositional mindfulness may buffer against opioid craving among chronic pain patients prescribed opioids; this buffering effect may be a function of improved autonomic and affective responses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6355352/

 

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/

 

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

Content Free Awareness is Associated with Increased Brain Attentional Activity and Decreased Self-Awareness Activity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While scientists do not yet fully understand the true origin of consciousness, many agree that it can be measured within the brainwave patterns of the individual.” – EOC Institute

 

In meditation there occurs a number of different states of consciousness. One of the highest levels achieved is content free awareness. In this state there is nothing that the meditator is aware of other than awareness. The meditator is aware and aware of being aware, but nothing else. Changes in awareness are associated with changes in the activity of the brain which can be seen in the Electroencephalogram (EEG) and also in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). But content free awareness is elusive and what activity in the brain accompanies it is unknown.

 

In today’s Research News article “Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A), Winter and colleagues recruited an meditator with 40 years of experience and over 50,000 hours of formal meditation practice. They simultaneously recorded heart rate, respiration, and brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during rest, attention to external stimuli, attention to internal stimuli including memories, and during meditation in a state of content-minimized awareness. After the content free awareness “he reported that he had no awareness of any mental content or any sensory event, including the noise of the MRI scanner. Similarly, he reported having had no experience of self, time, or space of any kind whatsoever at this stage.”

 

They found that heart rate and respiration decreased over the various states reaching its lowest levels during content free awareness. They found that there was a sharp decrease in EEG alpha rhythm power and increase in theta rhythm power during content free awareness. Finally, they found a decrease in functional connectivity in the posterior default mode network and increase in the dorsal attention network during content free awareness.

 

These are interesting results but it must be kept in mind that this was from a single adept expert meditator. Nevertheless, they provide a glimpse at the state of the nervous system during the deepest mental state occurring during meditation. The default mode network is involved in mind wandering, daydreaming, and self-referential thought. The fact that the connectivity within this system was markedly reduced during content free awareness suggests that non-specific mental activity and the idea of self are greatly reduced if not eliminated. The fact that connectivity within the dorsal attentional network increased while there was no increase in the sensory areas of the brain suggests that during content free awareness there was a focused attention that was decoupled from sensory experience. Hence, the brain activity observed in this meditator markedly corresponds to the mental state achieved.

 

So, content free awareness is associated with increased brain attentional activity and decreased self-awareness activity.

 

“The higher state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states. Here, we know we “are” but we don’t know “where” we are. This knowledge that I “am,” but I don’t know “where” I am or “what” I am, is called Shiva.” – Ravi Shankar

 

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

 

Winter U, LeVan P, Borghardt TL, Akin B, Wittmann M, Leyens Y and Schmidt S (2020) Content-Free Awareness: EEG-fcMRI Correlates of Consciousness as Such in an Expert Meditator. Front. Psychol. 10:3064. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064

 

The minimal neural correlate of the conscious state, regardless of the neural activity correlated with the ever-changing contents of experience, has still not been identified. Different attempts have been made, mainly by comparing the normal waking state to seemingly unconscious states, such as deep sleep or general anesthesia. A more direct approach would be the neuroscientific investigation of conscious states that are experienced as free of any specific phenomenal content. Here we present serendipitous data on content-free awareness (CFA) during an EEG-fMRI assessment reported by an extraordinarily qualified meditator with over 50,000 h of practice. We focused on two specific cortical networks related to external and internal awareness, i.e., the dorsal attention network (DAN) and the default mode network (DMN), to explore the neural correlates of this experience. The combination of high-resolution EEG and ultrafast fMRI enabled us to analyze the dynamic aspects of fMRI connectivity informed by EEG power analysis. The neural correlates of CFA were characterized by a sharp decrease in alpha power and an increase in theta power as well as increases in functional connectivity in the DAN and decreases in the posterior DMN. We interpret these findings as correlates of a top-down-initiated attentional state excluding external sensory stimuli and internal mentation from conscious experience. We conclude that the investigation of states of CFA could provide valuable input for new methodological and conceptual approaches in the search for the minimal neural correlate of consciousness.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03064/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1254058_69_Psycho_20200225_arts_A

 

Have Consistent Physiological Responses to Differing Circumstances with Mindfulness

Have Consistent Physiological Responses to Differing Circumstances with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Heart rate variability differs from basic heart rate tracking that measures beats per minute in that it actually measures the time variance between heartbeats. With this heart rate variability, you can actually get a good picture of the resilience of the heart organ, which is a good predictor of both well-being and longevity.” – Kyle Pearce

 

In our lives we are confronted with a variety of situations and environments. In order to successfully navigate these differing situations, we must be able to adapt and self-regulate. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is designed to adapt physiologically to the varying demands on us. It is composed of 2 divisions; the sympathetic division underlies activation, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, while the parasympathetic division underlies relaxation, including decreases in heart rate and blood pressure. A measure of the balance between these systems is provided by the variability of the heart rate.

 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the change in the time intervals between consecutive heart beats. Higher levels of HRV are indicative of flexibility in the Autonomic Nervous System and are associated with adaptability to varying environments. Mindfulness has been associated with a psychological flexibility and a greater ability to adapt appropriately to differing situations. It makes sense then to investigate the relationship of mindfulness to and Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

 

In today’s Research News article “Trait Mindfulness Is Associated With the Self-Similarity of Heart Rate Variability.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A ), Sun and colleagues recruited college students and had them complete a measures of mindfulness. The students were also measured for heart rate variability (HRV) under 4 3-minute conditions, “a calming phase, a mental arithmetic task, a recovery phase, and mindfulness practice.”

 

They found that the participants level of mindfulness was not significantly associated with any direct measures of heart rate variability. Rather, mindfulness was associated with the consistency of heart rate variability between the response on different tasks. Hence, students high in mindfulness tended to have heart rate variability responses in the different phases that were very similar. In other words, heart rate variability during calming, mental arithmetic, and mindfulness practice were very consistent.

 

These results are correlational and as such conclusions about causation cannot be reached. But it can be speculated that mindfulness keeps the responses of the autonomic nervous system consistent making it easier to cope with varying circumstances. This level consistent responding may promote health and well-being. This suggests that greater focus on what is happening in the moment (mindfulness) may promote the ability to regulate one’s physiological responses and thereby to adapt to differing circumstances.

 

So, have consistent physiological responses to differing circumstances with mindfulness.

 

“Meditation is one technique that may help improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV) in both the short term and long-term. The end goal is not just to increase HRV, but it is to help the body better recover from stress related damages.” – Sam Sly

 

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

 

Sun S, Hu C, Pan J, Liu C and Huang M (2019) Trait Mindfulness Is Associated With the Self-Similarity of Heart Rate Variability. Front. Psychol. 10:314. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314

 

Previous studies have linked trait mindfulness with better self-regulation and adaptation. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a good physiological indicator of the capacity for self-regulation and adaptation. The present study explored the relationship between trait mindfulness and HRV from the viewpoint of crosstalking between different HRV parameter pairs, which would reflect the dynamic interactions between each pair of HRV parameters in different processes. We measured the trait mindfulness of seventy-four undergraduate students and recorded nine HRV parameters during the following four consecutive experimental phases: (1) calming phase, (2) mental arithmetic task phase, (3) recovery phase, and (4) mindfulness practice phase. The relationship between trait mindfulness and HRV was explored at the following three levels: (1) the absolute level, i.e., HRV parameters in four different states, (2) the difference-change level, i.e., differences in HRV parameters between different states, and (3) the crosstalking level, i.e., self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs. The results supported the following hypothesis: trait mindfulness, as measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), was significantly and positively correlated with the self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs but was not significantly correlated with the HRV parameters at the difference-change and absolute levels. These findings indicate that as trait mindfulness increases, the ability to maintain ANS function homeostasis improves.

HIGHLIGHTS

– Trait mindfulness is associated with better self-regulation and adaptation.

– Heart rate variability (HRV) is a good physiological indicator of the capacity for self-regulation and adaptation.

– Trait mindfulness is significantly correlated with self-similarity of crosstalking HRV parameter pairs but not with the HRV parameters at the difference-change or absolute levels.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00314/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_925884_69_Psycho_20190305_arts_A