Improve Cardiovascular State and Stress with Yogic Breathing
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Yoga breathing can help you achieve balance in both your body and mind. In fact, researchers have found that regularly practicing yoga breathing can have the following benefits: reduce anxiety and depression, lower and/or stabilize blood pressure, increase energy levels, relax muscles, and decrease feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.” – Lung Institute
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. This would allow for optimization of yoga practice for specific problems.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of modified slow breathing exercise on perceived stress and basal cardiovascular parameters.” (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=1;spage=53;epage=58;aulast=Naik ), Naik and colleagues examined the effects of yogic breathing techniques on cardiovascular performance. They recruited healthy adult male volunteers (age 18 to 30 years) and randomly assigned them to a no-treatment control group or to receive 12 weeks, 5 days per week, 30 minutes per day of yogic slow (6 second inhale and 6 second exhale) alternate nostril breathing. The participants were also encouraged to practice at home daily. They were measured before and after the 12-week training period for body size, perceived stress, resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.
They found that after training the yogic breathing group had a significant reduction in resting heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They also observed a particularly large significant reduction in perceived stress in the yogic breathing group. There were no significant changes in body size observed. Hence, the breath training in yoga appears to have important benefits for cardiovascular function and the stress levels of the practitioners.
It can be speculated that the reductions in stress were responsible for the improvements in cardiovascular performance as stress is well known to increase heart rate and blood pressure. In this study, however, causation cannot be determined. The lack of an active control condition is a weakness of the study allowing for bias to be an alternative explanation for the results. In addition, the lack of a follow-up measurement did not allow for a determination of the duration of effectiveness of the technique. Future research should include women, an active control, and long-term follow-up measurements. Regardless, yogic slow alternate nostril breathing would appear to be a promising method to reduce stress and promote cardiovascular health.
So, improve cardiovascular state and stress with yogic breathing.
“Physiology and psychology are two ends of the same stick. You can’t work on one without the other.” Nowhere is this truer than with conscious breathing, which acts as a medicinal tool, increasing well-being and peace of mind.” – Angela Wilson,
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Naik G S, Gaur G S, Pal G K. Effect of modified slow breathing exercise on perceived stress and basal cardiovascular parameters. Int J Yoga 2018;11:53-8
Context: Different types of breathing exercises have varied effects on cardiovascular parameters and the stress levels in an individual. Aim:The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a modified form of isolated alternate nostril, slow breathing exercise on perceived stress, and cardiovascular parameters in young, male volunteers. Settings and Design: This was a randomized control study carried out at Advanced Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research, Department of Physiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry in 2014. Subjects and Methods: Hundred healthy male volunteers were randomized into control group, n = 50 and slow breathing group (study), n = 50. Slow breathing exercise training was given to study group for 30 min a day, 5 times/week for 12 weeks, under the supervision of certified yoga trainers. Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) using Cohen’s questionnaire, anthropometric parameters such as body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio (WHR), and cardiovascular parameters such as heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were recorded at baseline and after 12 weeks. The control group did not receive any intervention. Slow breathing exercise training was provided for the study group. During the study period, one volunteer opted out of the study group due to personal reasons. Results: HR, SBP, DBP, and PSS decreased significantly (P < 0.05) in the study group following 12 weeks slow breathing exercise training, while no significant change (P > 0.05) was observed in BMI and WHR. There was no significant change in the control group. Conclusion: Twelve weeks of modified slow breathing exercise reduced perceived stress and improved the cardiovascular parameters. The above results indicate that our modified slow breathing exercise is effective in reducing stress and improving the cardiovascular parameters.