Background: Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech uses poems and exercises which typically induce rhythmical breathing. Speaking influences respiration and thus directly heart rate variability (HRV), in particular via respiratory sinus arrhythmia which, together with the slower rhythms of HRV, may be regarded as an indicator of sympathovagal balance. In chronomedicine numerous frequency ratios between physiological rhythms, especially in trophotropic phases, have been established. Integer ratios occur frequently and seem to be associated with the optimization of physiological processes. In larger groups the average pulse respiration quotient is about 4:1.
Question: Can systematic effects on HRV, and thus on autonomic balance, be established through special speech therapy?
Subjects and methods: In two trained therapists and 7 untrained subjects the influence of different speech exercises and texts on HRV was investigated. With untrained subjects a total of 105 one-hour sessions, divided into speech and control exercises, was performed. The overall well-being and quality of well-being were assessed with questionnaires. Control evaluations were made in the same setting.
Results: As a simultaneous effect, during speech exercises and texts typical intra- and inter-individually reproducible patterns in heart rate variability were observed. Reciting poems with a hexameter metric generates 2 oscillations with a 2:1 frequency ratio in the HRV spectrum. As immediate effects there were a significant drop in heart rate after speech sessions as well as a strengthening of vagus-related HRV parameters, especially after hexameter exercises. In comparison to control sessions the subjects felt significantly better, too. The different metric and poetic character of the texts was reflected clearly in the results.