Reciting Ave Maria linked to a healthy heart

December 20, 2001

Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study BMJ Volume 323, pp 1446-9

Reciting the rosary prayer or yoga mantras enhance some aspect of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, finds a study in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

Luciano Bernardi and colleagues recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, during recitation of the Ave Maria and yoga mantras, and during six minutes of controlled breathing.

Normal talking reduced the breathing rate more irregularly. Breathing was markedly more regular during controlled breathing, the Ave Maria, and the mantra. Both the Ave Maria and the mantra slowed breathing to around six breaths per minute, inducing a favourable effect on the heart's rhythm.

The benefits of breathing exercises in the practice of yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm. Similarly, the rosary may have partly evolved because it synchronised with the body's natural heart rhythms, and thus gave a feeling of wellbeing, and perhaps an increased responsiveness to the religious message, suggest the authors.

As such, the rosary might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, they conclude.


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