Pranayamic Breathing for Health

Pranayama is practiced by many in India for health and longevity. Even though it’s considered an alternative form of healing, the benefits are well studied. Western healthcare providers are slow to incorporate alternative therapies into their practice, though many are proven and supported.

Two years ago, Dr. Patricia Uber, speaking at the Heart Failure Society of America 2006 Scientific Sessions, urged heart failure specialists to consider other options for their patients. She suggested prayer, poetry and Pranayama. Her comments that "breath resynchronization therapy" be incorporated into the "armamentarium" of heart-failure therapies were met with applause and approval during the session.

Dr. Uber went on to explain how the breath becomes out of synch with blood pressure waves as heart failure progresses. She cited small studies proving that pranayamic breathing, reciting poetry and performing yoga mantras can restore synchronicity of breath. Exercises that slow breathing improve the function of baroreceptors - nerve endings that regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Improvements in blood pressure can be as effective as medications with regular practice.

Dr. Uber urged health practitioners to “start looking at things that can reduce blood pressure that maybe can reduce neurohormones, that don't have to involve a device but can involve simple practice, such as going to church and the relief you may get from praying, or learning yoga mantras and deep-breathing techniques. These things don't cost much beyond the initial instruction that may actually improve the heart-failure state. As healthcare practitioners, we have to start addressing complementary medicine, even as a preventive method to reduce stress, blood pressure, and heart rate to prevent hypertension and heart failure later on. We'd really be crazy to just keep stacking on neurohormonal antagonism and devices without looking at the mind-body connection."

The message is that there are alternative practices that we all can employ to enjoy better health – pranayamic breathing is one suggestion. The benefits extend to everyone, not just to those with heart failure. Consider the value of the mind-body connection in your daily activities. Better health comes from a variety of activities.