Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful sex involves being able to observe and describe what’s happening inside your body and mind without sorting experiences into “bad” and “good” or trying to change your feelings. When we are able to do that, we can “turn off the autopilot.” – Gina Silverstein

 

Sex is a very important aspect of life. Problems with sex are very common and have negative consequences for relationships. While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common, it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Women suffer from sexual dysfunction more than men with 43% of women and 31% of men reporting some degree of difficulty. Hence, sex has major impacts on people’s lives and relationships. Greater research attention to sexual activity and sexual satisfaction and the well-being of the individual is warranted.

 

Mindfulness trainings have been shown to improve a variety of psychological issues including emotion regulationstress responsestraumafear and worryanxiety, and depression, and self-esteem. Mindfulness training has also been found to improve relationships and to be useful in treating sexual problems. But there is little empirical research on the relationship of mindfulness with sexuality in normal, non-clinical, individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/ )  Sánchez-Sánchez and colleagues recruited online adults who were meditation naïve or who practiced meditation for at least 5 months. They completed measures online of mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies.

 

They found that the meditation practitioners were significantly higher in emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, sexuality, and leisure and significantly lower in perceived stress. They were also significantly higher in mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and the amount of mindfulness practice, the higher the levels of body awareness sexual satisfaction and sexual activity. Also, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of body dissociation.

 

It should be kept in mind that there was no random assignment and so the groups may be quite different, People who meditate may be systematically different from those who don’t in many ways including the variables measured in this study. But previous research including randomized studies demonstrated that mindfulness produced higher levels of emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, and sexuality, and lower levels of stress. So, the present findings likely also represent causal connections.

 

These findings suggest that mindfulness is associated with better psychological and physical health and well-being. They also suggest that mindfulness is associated with better sexual function in terms of sexual activity, satisfaction with sex, and relationship quality and even a better sexual fantasy life. Sex is such an important aspect of life that many of the other psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness may emanate from the improved sex life of the individuals. Much more research is needed.

 

So, have better sex with mindfulness.

 

Think of mindful sex as an invitation, as an opportunity to explore the mystery of sex. The reward is deeper intimacy, more meaningful connections, and (fingers crossed) greater physical pleasure.” – Kayti Christian

 

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

 

Sánchez-Sánchez, L. C., Rodríguez, M., García-Montes, J. M., Petisco-Rodríguez, C., & Fernández-García, R. (2021). Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(3), 1161. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031161

 

Abstract

The goal of this study is to better understand the relation between the practice of Mindfulness and the sexual activity, sexual satisfaction and erotic fantasies of Spanish-speaking participants. This research focuses on the comparison between people who practice Mindfulness versus naïve people, and explores the practice of Mindfulness and its relation with the following variables about sexuality: body awareness and bodily dissociation, personal sexual satisfaction, partner and relationship-related satisfaction, desire, subjective sexual arousal, genital arousal, orgasm, pain, attitudes towards sexual fantasies and types of sexual fantasies. The sample consisted of 106 selected adults, 32 men and 74 women, who completed six measures on an online survey platform: (a) Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), (b) Scale of Body Connection (SBC), (c) New Sexual Satisfaction Scale (NSSS), (d) Scale of Sexual Activity in Women (SSA-W) and Men (SSA-M), (e) Hurlbert Index of Sexual Fantasy (HISF), (f) Wilson’s Sex Fantasy Questionnaire. In the MAAS, Body Awareness subscale (SBC), NSSS, SSA-W and SSA-M, HISF and intimate fantasies subscale (Wilson’s questionnaire), people in the Mindfulness condition showed higher scores and these differences were statistically significant. These results may have relevant implications in the sexuality of clinical and non-clinical samples.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/

 

Breathing-Focused Yoga Practices Produce Greater Benefits for College Students than Meditative-Focused Practices

Breathing-Focused Yoga Practices Produce Greater Benefits for College Students than Meditative-Focused Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Want to manage your anger so you don’t feel you’re always on the verge of blowing up? Want to feel less stressed and juggle all the things going on in your life? Need to focus better in class or while you do your homework? Yoga poses can help. But meditation and breathing really round out those benefits.” – Mary L. Gavin

 

Yoga 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. There are a wide variety of different yoga training techniques. Many varieties employ breath-focused practices while many others employ meditative-focused practices. Although the benefits of yoga practices in general are well studied there is little scientific research comparing breathing-focused versus meditative-focused yoga.

 

In today’s Research News article “Comparing the Psychological Effects of Meditation- and Breathing-Focused Yoga Practice in Undergraduate Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.560152/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1490157_69_Psycho_20201124_arts_A ) Qi and colleagues recruited college students with no yoga experience and randomly assigned them to a once a week for 80 minutes 12-week program of either breath-focused yoga or meditation-focused yoga. During each Hatha yoga class the students received either 10 minutes of meditation practice or breathing practice. They were measured before and after the program for work intention, mindfulness, and perceived stress.

 

They found that both before and after yoga training the higher the participants’ levels of mindfulness the lower their levels of perceived stress. They further found that in comparison to baseline and the other yoga group, the breath-focused yoga group had significantly higher levels of perceived stress and mindfulness while the meditation-focused yoga group had significantly lower work intention.

 

These results are interesting and document the previously reported linkage between mindfulness and lower stress levels. But they go further in demonstrating that breath-focus is an important component of yoga practice for the improvement of mindfulness and the lowering of perceived stress. This suggests that breathing practice should be emphasized in yoga instruction. These results also suggest that yoga practice may be beneficial for college students who are routinely found to have high stress levels, reducing their stress and thereby allowing them to perform their best in their studies.

 

So, breathing-focused yoga practices produce greater benefits for college students than meditative-focused practices.

 

Mindful yoga (or the integration of yoga and mindfulness meditation techniques) provides a healthy and safe environment for individuals to practice “being with” uncomfortable emotional and physical experiences, and to eventually reunite with and fully inhabit their bodies.” – Melissa Mercedes

 

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

 

Qi X, Tong J, Chen S, He Z and Zhu X (2020) Comparing the Psychological Effects of Meditation- and Breathing-Focused Yoga Practice in Undergraduate Students. Front. Psychol. 11:560152. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.560152

 

ABSTRACT

Objectives: The present study aimed to compare the psychological effects of meditation- and breathing-focused yoga practice in undergraduate students.

Methods: A 12-weeks yoga intervention was conducted among a group of undergraduate students enrolled in four yoga classes at an academically prestigious university in Beijing, China. Four classes were randomized to meditation-focused yoga or breathing-focused yoga. A total of 86 participants finished surveys before and after the 12-weeks intervention, measuring work intention, mindfulness, and perceived stress. The repeated-measure multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) followed by univariate analyses were conducted to examine the differences in work intention, mindfulness, and stress between the two yoga intervention groups over the semester, after controlling for age and gender.

Results: The repeated-measure MANCOVA revealed significant group differences with a median effect size [Wilks’ lambda, Λ = 0.90, F(3, 80) = 3.10, p = 0.031, η2 = 0.104]. Subsequent univariate analyses showed that students in the breathing-focused yoga group had significant higher work intentions [F(1, 82) = 5.22; p = 0.025; η2p = 0.060] and mindfulness [F(1, 82) = 6.33; p = 0.014; η2p = 0.072] but marginally lower stress [F(1, 82) = 4.20; p = 0.044; η2p = 0.049] than students in the meditation-focused yoga group.

Conclusion: Yoga practice with a focus on breathing is more effective than that with a focus on meditation for undergraduates to retain energy for work, keep attention and awareness, and reduce stress.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.560152/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1490157_69_Psycho_20201124_arts_A

 

Increase Metabolism with Yogic Breathing Practices

Increase Metabolism with Yogic Breathing Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“different yoga postures and breathing practices, which involve the control of respiratory rate and retention periods, may produce markedly different metabolic effects.” – Anupama Tyagi

 

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 and meditation practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects. Classically, some yogic breathing techniques have been characterized as cooling. But this assertion has not been investigated with controlled scientific research.

 

In today’s Research News article “Body Temperature and Energy Expenditure During and After Yoga Breathing Practices Traditionally Described as Cooling.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6977599/ ) Telles and colleagues recruited healthy participants, aged 19-25 years, who were experienced with yogic breathing. They had 4 28-minute sessions of 18 minutes of yogic breathing techniques that required mouth breathing with the protrusion of the tongue of sheetali pranayama or sitkari pranayama, or breath awareness, or quietly lying down. The sessions occurred on individual days in randomized orders. During each session they were measured for body temperature and oxygen consumption.

 

They found that during both of the yogic breathing sessions there were significant increases in body temperature, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide eliminated, estimated energy expenditure, and non-protein respiratory quotient. On the other hand, during quiet lying down there were significant decreases in oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide eliminated, estimated energy expenditure.

 

Hence, the yogic breathing was not “cooling” but activating. Indeed, these results suggest that the yogic breathing techniques produce a mild hypermetabolic state that is similar to that found with mild exercise. It can be speculated that it is the activation produced by these techniques that is responsible for some of the benefits of yogic breathing techniques. Future research is needed to test this hypothesis.

 

So, increase metabolism with yogic breathing practices.

 

We breathe constantly, it’s what we do. We cannot make ourselves stop breathing, except to only hold our breath for a few minutes, thankfully. However, what we can control is how we breathe. This control of how oxygen enters and exits the body has been linked to the improvement of bodily function and our nervous system, which includes stimulating our metabolism.” – Heather Lancaster

 

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., Gandharva, K., Sharma, S. K., Gupta, R. K., & Balkrishna, A. (2020). Body Temperature and Energy Expenditure During and After Yoga Breathing Practices Traditionally Described as Cooling. Medical science monitor basic research, 26, e920107. https://doi.org/10.12659/MSMBR.920107

 

Abstract

Background

In traditional yoga texts, sheetali and sitkari pranayamas are described as cooling. The present study was aimed at recording the surface body temperature, oxygen consumed, and carbon dioxide eliminated before, during, and after performance of sheetali and sitkari pranayamas.

Material/Methods

Seventeen healthy male volunteers with ages between 19 to 25 years (average age 20.7±1.8 years) were assessed in 4 sessions, viz. sheetali pranayama, sitkari pranayama, breath awareness and quiet lying, on 4 separate days, in random sequence. The axillary surface body temperature (TRUSCOPE II, Schiller, China) and metabolic variables (Quark CPET, COSMED, Italy) were recorded in 3 periods: before (5 minutes), during (18 minutes), and after (5 minutes), in each of the 4 sessions. The heat index was calculated in the before and after periods, based on recordings of ambient temperature and humidity. Data were analyzed using SPSS (Version 24.0).

Results

Body temperature increased significantly during sheetali and sitkari (p<0.05, p<0.01; respectively) while it decreased after breath awareness and quiet lying down (p<0.01, p<0.001; respectively) when compared with respective post-exercise states. Oxygen consumption increased by 9.0% during sheetali (p<0.05) and by 7.6% during sitkari (p<0.01) while it decreased significantly during (p<0.05) and after (p<0.01) quiet lying down compared to respective pre-exercise states.

Conclusions

The results do not support the description of these yoga breathing practices as cooling. These yoga breathing practices may be used to induce a mild hypermetabolic state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6977599/

 

Improve Executive Control in Thinking with Yoga

Improve Executive Control in Thinking with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

yoga can be a cognitive enhancement or brain fitness exercise that can confer similar or even more extensive cognitive resilience than memory training-the gold standard-in older adults.” – Helen Lavretsky

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and also decreases the individual’s tendency to use tried and true solutions to problems and thereby improves cognitive flexibility. Yoga practice has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. Yoga practice has been shown to improve both social–emotional and cognitive skills.

 

To better understand the effects of yoga practice on young adults it is important to take into consideration that yoga is a not only a mindfulness practice, but it is also a physical exercise. It is also a complex practice that can include a number of practices including postures, meditation, breathing exercises, chanting, mantras, and relaxation. It is difficult to understand which components or combination of components are necessary and sufficient to produce improvements in cognition in young adults. Hence, it is important to investigate the differential effectiveness of different components of yoga practice.

 

In today’s Research News article “Enhancing Executive Control: Attention to Balance, Breath, and the Speed Versus Accuracy Tradeoff.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7069337/ ) Singh and Mutreja performed 2 studies to examine the postural control and breath control aspects of yoga training and their differential effects on the cognitive abilities of young adults.

 

In study 1 they recruited yoga naïve university students and had them complete measures of cognitive ability. They then were trained in yoga postures and breathing for 70 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks. 5 days after the last session they were measured again with the same measures and a new set of measures of cognitive ability. During every yoga session instructors rated the participants for postural and breath control and after the session they completed measures of positive and negative emotions.

 

They found that errors in breathing exercises were related to better short-term memory. Additionally, breath control was related to slower responding on cognitive planning tasks and faster responding on cognitive flexibility tasks. On the other hand, postural control was related to slower responding with fewer errors of perseveration.

 

In study 2 they recruited similar participants and had them complete the same measures over the same time periods as study 1 but no yoga training was conducted. The cognitive performances of these control participants were compared to the yoga trained group from study 1. They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group, after yoga training there was a significant increase in the accuracy but not the response speed on the various cognitive tasks.

 

These studies and results are interesting and suggest first that training in yoga improves cognitive performance in young healthy adults. Yoga’s ability to enhance cognition has been previously reported. Importantly, these studies also suggest that different components of yoga training, breath control and postural control are related to different speed and accuracy components of cognitive performance. This suggests that different components of yoga practice and training may have different influences on changes in cognitive abilities produced by the training.

 

These studies are important in that they begin the process of dismantling the complexities of yoga training and their relationships to the effects of yoga training. This can lead to a better understanding of how yoga practice effects cognition and to an optimization of yoga practice to improve cognitive performance. This can lead to better academic and work performance in young adults and potentially to reduced cognitive decline with aging.

 

So, improve executive control in thinking with yoga.

 

Yoga practice may result in improved cognitive performance, among other potential benefits in healthy adults.” – Devon Brunner

 

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

 

Singh, V., & Mutreja, V. (2020). Enhancing Executive Control: Attention to Balance, Breath, and the Speed Versus Accuracy Tradeoff. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 180. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00180

 

Abstract

Malleability of executive control and its enhancement through yoga training is unclear. In Study 1, participants (yoga group; n = 27, mean = 23.27 years) were tested on executive control tasks pre- and post-8 weeks of yoga training. The training focused on attention to postural control during yoga asanas and respiratory control during pranayama-breathing (30 min each of postural and breath control training, biweekly). Yoga training was assessed via performance ratings as to how well a posture was executed and by examining errors that reflected inattention/failures in postural and breath control. We also explored whether attentional demands on motor and respiratory control were associated with three components of executive control (working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition) during nine executive control tasks. Partial correlation results revealed that the three components of executive control might be differentially impacted by postural and breath control and selectively associated with either speed or accuracy (except for cognitive flexibility). Attentional demands influenced the link between postural, breath, and cognitive control. In Study 2, comparisons between a yoga group and a gender-matched control group (control group; n = 27, mean = 23.33 years) pointed toward higher working memory accuracy and a better speed–accuracy tradeoff in inhibitory control in the yoga group. A ceiling-practice effect was addressed by examining yoga practice learning (i.e., practice-induced change in postural and breath control reflected in ratings and errors) on executive control performance across two sets of tasks: repeatedly tested (pre- and post-8 weeks) and non-repeatedly tested (post-8 weeks). Attention to motor and respiratory control during yoga might be considered as a potential mechanism through which specific components of executive control in young adults might be enhanced potentially via altering of speed–accuracy tradeoff.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7069337/

 

Meditation and Yogic Breathing Techniques Improve Respiration and Psychological Well-Being

Meditation and Yogic Breathing Techniques Improve Respiration and Psychological Well-Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques all depend on focusing on the breath. There are many benefits of meditation and proper breathing is an important part of learning how to calm the mind and body.” – Home Care Assistance

 

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 and meditation practices and have been found to have a number of beneficial effects.

 

Modern medicine has also developed respiratory therapies for the treatment of patients with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Many of these techniques are similar to those practiced in meditation and yoga. In today’s Research News article “Analogy between classical Yoga/Zen breathing and modern clinical respiratory therapy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7429199/) Tobe and Saito examine the similarities of meditation and yoga breathing exercises and respiratory therapies and their relative effects.

 

Respiratory therapy has been shown to be essential in the treatment of respiratory diseases. But, breathing techniques are not new. They’ve been practiced for over 3000 years. Yoga incorporates a number of different techniques. Even the Buddha emphasized breathing techniques during meditation and these were greatly elaborated on in Zen meditation. There are considerable similarities with respiratory therapy and meditation and yogic breathing techniques. They all emphasize deep inhalation, slow exhalation with some resistance, low respiratory frequency, and even counting of breaths.

 

Tobe and Saito note that research has shown that meditation and yogic breathing techniques, like respiratory therapy, have considerable positive effects on respiration including improved “vital capacity, timed vital capacity, maximum voluntary ventilation, breath-hold time, maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures and oxygen saturation.” They also increase the psychological well-being of practitioners including reducing panic attacks, depression, and headaches, relieving pain, and improving sleep.

 

Tobe and Saito conclude that meditation and yogic breathing techniques are effective in modern clinical practice improving respiratory function and psychological well-being, and relieving chronic pain. Indeed, research on meditation and yogic breathing techniques suggest that they improve physiological and respiratory function and are effective for the treatment of a number of diseases and psychological problems.

 

So, meditation and yogic breathing techniques improve respiration and psychological well-being.

 

By inducing stress resilience, breath work enables us to rapidly and compassionately relieve many forms of suffering.” – Richard Brown

 

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

 

Tobe, M., & Saito, S. (2020). Analogy between classical Yoga/Zen breathing and modern clinical respiratory therapy. Journal of anesthesia, 1–6. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00540-020-02840-5

 

Abstract

Anesthesiologists and intensivists are modern-day professionals who provide appropriate respiratory care, vital for patient survival. Recently, anesthesiologists have increasingly focused their attention on the type of spontaneous breathing made by non-intubated patients with pulmonary disease cared for in an intensive care unit, and also patients with chronic pain receiving cognitive behavioral therapy. Prior to our modern understanding of respiratory physiology, Zen meditators recognized that breathing has a significant impact on a person’s mental state and general physical well-being. Examples of this knowledge regarding respiration include the beneficial effects of deep inhalation and slow exhalation on anxiety and general wellness. The classical literature has noted many suggestions for breathing and its psycho-physical effects. In the present review, we examine the effect of classical breathing methods and find an analogy between typical Yoga/Zen breathing and modern clinical respiratory therapy. Evidence is increasing about historical breathing and related meditation techniques that may be effective in modern clinical practice, especially in the field of anesthesiology, such as in improving respiratory function and reducing chronic pain. Clarification of the detailed mechanisms involved is anticipated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7429199/

 

Activate the Brain and Synchronize the Cerebral Hemispheres with Kriya Yoga

Activate the Brain and Synchronize the Cerebral Hemispheres with Kriya Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Kriya yoga in Sanskrit means “to move.” The yoga combines all the energy in the body of the mind and to increase the concentration and the awareness in the body. It helps in energizing all the parts of your body. The internal organs inside your body thyroid, spleen, liver, and pancreas, are energized which improve your overall health.” – Larissa Smith

 

Mindfulness 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. There are a wide variety of different mindfulness training techniques. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is an ancient technique that involves cyclical breathing patterns that range from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating. How exactly SKY produces its benefits is unknown.

 

One way to observe the effects of mindfulness practices is to measure changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG), the rhythmic electrical activity that can be recorded from the scalp. The recorded activity can be separated into frequency bands. Delta activity consists of oscillations in the 0.5-3 cycles per second band. Theta activity in the EEG consists of oscillations in the 4-8 cycles per second band. Alpha activity consists of oscillations in the 8-12 cycles per second band. Beta activity consists of oscillations in the 13-30 cycles per second band while Gamma activity occurs in the 30-100 cycles per second band.

 

In today’s Research News article “High-Frequency Cerebral Activation and Interhemispheric Synchronization Following Sudarshan Kriya Yoga as Global Brain Rhythms: The State Effects.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336945/) Bhaskar and colleagues recruited adult Sudarshan Kriya Yoga practitioners. They recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) for 5 minutes before and after a 1-hour Sudarshan Kriya Yoga practice.

 

They found that after Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) practice there was a significant increase in the spectral power of all EEG frequency bands. They also found that after SKY there was a significant increase in the synchronization of the electrical activity in the rwo cerebral hemispheres. These results indicate that a single session of SKY increases overall brain activity and interhemispheric synchronization.

 

These findings suggest that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) practice heightens neural activity in a synchronized fashion. This suggests that SKY practice improves physiological balance, alertness, and mental well-being. It remains for future research to determine whether these changes in brain activity occur in SKY naive participants and whether these changes are lasting or only occurring in the immediate aftermath of SKY practice.

 

So, activate the brain and synchronize the cerebral hemispheres with Kriya Yoga.

 

Kriya Yoga is universal in its benefits: it doesn’t depend on anything outside itself.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

 

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

 

Bhaskar, L., Tripathi, V., Kharya, C., Kotabagi, V., Bhatia, M., & Kochupillai, V. (2020). High-Frequency Cerebral Activation and Interhemispheric Synchronization Following Sudarshan Kriya Yoga as Global Brain Rhythms: The State Effects. International journal of yoga, 13(2), 130–136. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_25_19

 

Abstract

Context:

Respiration is known to modulate neuronal oscillations in the brain and is measured by electroencephalogram (EEG). Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a popular breathing process and is established for its significant effects on the various aspects of physiology and psychology.

Aims:

This study aimed to observe neuronal oscillations in multifrequency bands and interhemispheric synchronization following SKY.

Settings and Design:

This study employed before- and after-study design.

Subjects and Methods:

Forty healthy volunteers (average age 25.45 ± 5.75, 23 males and 17 females) participated in the study. Nineteen-channel EEG was recorded and analyzed for 5 min each: before and after SKY. Spectral power for delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma frequency band was calculated using Multi-taper Fast Fourier Transform (Chronux toolbox). The Asymmetry Index was calculated by subtracting the natural log of powers of left (L) hemisphere from the right® to show interhemispheric synchronization.

Statistical Analysis:

Paired t-test was used for statistical analysis.

Results:

Spectral power increased significantly in all frequency bands bilaterally in frontal, central, parietal, temporal, and occipital regions of the brain after long SKY. Electrical activity shifted from lower to higher frequency range with a significant rise in the gamma and beta powers following SKY. Asymmetry Index values tended toward 0 following SKY.

Conclusions:

A single session of SKY generates global brain rhythm dominantly with high-frequency cerebral activation and initiates appropriate interhemispheric synchronization in brain rhythms as state effects. This suggests that SKY leads to better attention, memory, and emotional and autonomic control along with enhanced cognitive functions, which finally improves physical and mental well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336945/

 

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/

 

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/