European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 88–95 | Cite as

Cardiorespiratory synchronization during Zen meditation

  • Dirk CysarzEmail author
  • Arndt Büssing
Original Article


The impact of meditation on cardiorespiratory synchronization with respect to breathing oscillations and the modulations of heart rate induced by respiration (respiratory sinus arrhythmia, RSA) was investigated in this study. Four different exercises (spontaneous breathing, mental task, Zen meditation, and Kinhin meditation) were consecutively performed by nine subjects mainly without any experience in meditation. An electrocardiogram and a respiratory trace were recorded simultaneously. On this basis the degree of cardiorespiratory synchronization was quantified by a technique which has been adopted from the analysis of weakly coupled chaotic oscillators. Both types of meditation showed a high degree of synchronization, whereas heartbeat and respiration were hardly synchronized during spontaneous breathing. During the mental task exercise the extent of synchronization was slightly higher than during spontaneous breathing. These results were largely determined by the breathing frequency because the two types of meditation induce low breathing frequencies which led to a pronounced and in-phase RSA. During the meditation the low breathing frequencies led to a decrease in the high frequency of heart rate variability, whereas the low frequency and the extent of RSA increased. The heart rate primarily reflected the degree of physical effort. The high degree of cardiorespiratory synchronization during meditation in unexperienced meditators suggests that the physiological implications of meditation does not require prior experience in meditation.


Heart rate variability Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Respiration Synchronization Bivariate data analysis Meditation 



Both authors express their gratitude for the financial support of the Software AG Stiftung, Darmstadt.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair of Medical Theory and Complementary MedicineUniversity of Witten/HerdeckeHerdeckeGermany
  2. 2.Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus HerdeckeHerdeckeGermany
  3. 3.Krebsforschung Herdecke e.V.HerdeckeGermany

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