Objective: To test whether rhythmic formulas such as the rosary and yoga mantras can synchronise and reinforce inherent cardiovascular rhythms and modify baroreflex sensitivity.
Design: Comparison of effects of recitation of the Ave Maria (in Latin) or of a mantra, during spontaneous and metronome controlled breathing, on breathing rate and on spontaneous oscillations in RR interval, and on blood pressure and cerebral circulation.
Setting: Florence and Pavia, Italy.
Participants: 23 healthy adults.
Main outcome measures: Breathing rate, regularity of breathing, baroreflex sensitivity, frequency of cardiovascular oscillations.
Results: Both prayer and mantra caused striking, powerful, and synchronous increases in existing cardiovascular rhythms when recited six times a minute. Baroreflex sensitivity also increased significantly, from 9.5 (SD 4.6) to 11.5 (4.9) ms/mm Hg, P<0.05.
Conclusion: Rhythm formulas that involve breathing at six breaths per minute induce favourable psychological and possibly physiological effects.