Cardiorespiratory synchronization during Zen meditation

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to Dirk Cysarz.

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Cysarz, D., Büssing, A. Cardiorespiratory synchronization during Zen meditation. Eur J Appl Physiol 95, 88–95 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-005-1379-3

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Keywords

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