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Rosary Exhales Hold Key to Health – Research Finds Vagus Nerve Most Calm when Praying Hail Marys

praying the rosary stimulates the vagus nerve to relax the body

This is fascinating to those of us who love empowering others with evidence-based wellbeing strategies. It turns out that when we pray the Hail Mary with our long, slow exhales, we are actually breathing at the most ideal rate for calming our nervous system, major organs, heart rate and brain activity. Incredible! We finally have scientific evidence to show why we FEEL so grounded, relaxed and calmer when we pray the Rosary.

What great news for your students, staff and/or families! Often, the Rosary gets boxed in as an outdated, boring or overly-traditional and those of us who love it and want to share it are at times scrambling for modern ways to explain its benefits. A scientific, biological explanation of how praying the Rosary can switch us from the sympathetic system of ‘fight or flight’ to the parasympathetic system of ‘rest and digest’ is a very useful tool for your faith formation toolkit. For more positive wellbeing reasons, including neuroscience evidence, to encourage participation in the Rosary see 10 Reasons the Rosary is a Great Prayer for School and Home

‘ “Norcliffe-Kaufmann confirmed: “Vagal activity is highest, and heart rate lowest, when you’re exhaling.” She mentioned that the ideal, most calming way to breathe is six times a minute: five seconds in, five seconds out. She also noted that in the study that determined this rate, researchers found that this style of slow breathing is also what practitioners naturally lapse into during meditation with mantras, and during the Ave Maria prayer with rosaries. “Each time you do either the rosary prayer or a meditation mantra,” Norcliffe-Kaufmann said, “it naturally synchronizes your breathing at six times per minute.” 

“Stimulating the vagus nerve to the heart has a really powerful effect on slowing the heart rate,” said Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann, associate professor of neurology at NYU-Langone. And this, specifically, is what relaxes us. The vagus nerve is basically listening to the way we breathe, and it sends the brain and the heart whatever message our breath indicates. Breathing slowly, for instance, reduces the oxygen demands of the heart muscle (the myocardium), and our heart rate drops.

The vagus nerve is essentially the queen of the parasympathetic nervous systema.k.a. the “rest and digest,” or the “chill out” one — so the more we do things that “stimulate” or activate it, like deep breathing, the more we banish the effects of the sympathetic nervous system — a.k.a. the “fight or flight,” or the “do something!” stress-releasing adrenaline/cortisol one. When we breathe slowly, the heart slows, and we relax. Conversely, when we breathe quickly, our heart speeds up, and we feel amped, or anxious.’

For the full article go to: https://www.thecut.com/amp/2019/05/i-now-suspect-the-vagus-nerve-is-the-key-to-well-being.html

For study that determined that the Rosary breathing enhances your heart health go to: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC61046/

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10 Reasons the Rosary is a Great Prayer for School or Home

Why Pray the Rosary

1) Praying the Rosary is a chance to slow down, appreciate, find your anchor point and become aware of God’s love for you.  This is a particularly powerful prayer for individuals, families and communities during hard times. It is one way to build an integrative spirituality, where our soul is energised and well-directed.  The Rosary engages our senses and is excellent and engaging classroom prayer activity.

2) Praying the Rosary helps us move out of pain and shame and redirects us back to our noble mission, as neuroscience, virtue ethics and Dr Brene Brown suggests. As we aim to cultivate gospel values in our lives, the stories, emotions and experiences of the Rosary help us to understand the values more deeply, to soak up the feeling of their positive effects in our bodies and to change our minds, hearts and lives.

3) In a unique way, the Rosary engages several senses which have a centring effect on the person and the community. Holding the Rosary beads helps your mind to focus and keeps you on track through the ancient prayer. The beads keep our ‘monkey brains’ from running off track. The auditory experience of praying the Hail Mary in halves and listening to individuals read and pray throughout brings the group closer together.

4) The slow, meditative exhales of the Rosary cause us to stimulate the Vagas Nerve, shifting us out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’, or the parasympathetic nervous system.

5) The Scriptural Rosary with modern pictures is a powerful invitation to experience ‘Visio Divina’ and ‘Lectio Divina’ contemplation simultaneously by gazing at meaningful pictures and listening to one line at a time of the scriptural stories.

6) Meditating on Scripture stories invites us to get to know Jesus and His family as a close friend does through visualising ourselves within the stories as Ignatian spirituality suggests. The pattern allows us to slowly imagine the scenes, find deeper insights and listen to God speak to us. It is a doorway into experiencing and cultivating a two-way relationship with God.

7) The Holy Rosary is a meditation on important stories in Scripture and Church tradition that teach the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the life and love of Mary.  It is a safe way to align with the Church’s faith formation guidelines and to create a life-giving Catholic Ethos for people of all backgrounds and abilities.

8) The Rosary also connects us with the ancient and modern, global pilgrim church, with many of our religious congregations and with every person in God’s family. Even by just praying this reverently with your class, staff or family opens up a sacred way to be together and pay respect to the human dignity in each person.

9) The prayer experience itself is a gift from God so you can receive the love and peace of Jesus and Mary for your journey. More than just a rote learning exercise, the Rosary is an experience that lifts the heart and connects us with God in a sacred way.

10) God promises to forgive, refresh, free, help, defend, reform, instruct, humble and connect to us through the Rosary and any time we come to Him in prayer. The more we pray the Rosary, the more we will notice small and/or significant blessings or positive changes.

“When people love and recite the Rosary they find it makes them better.” – St. Anthony Mary Claret

 “There is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary.” – Sister Lucia dos Santos of Fatima

“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”– St. Josemaria Escriva

“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” – Pope Saint Pius X

“The Rosary is a prayer that always accompanies me; it is also the prayer of the ordinary people and the saints… it is a prayer from my heart.” – Pope Francis

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales

 “The Rosary is a prayer both so humble and simple and a theologically rich in Biblical content. I beg you to pray it.” St. John Paul II

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Ideas for Praying the Rosary with Children

The Praying Princess

“When people love and recite the Rosary they find it makes them better.” – St. Anthony Mary Claret

“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”– St. Josemaria Escriva

 “The Rosary is a prayer both so humble and simple and a theologically rich in Biblical content. I beg you to pray it.” St. John Paul II

I found the below great article posted in: Pray with Your Kidsoffering some inspiring insights into praying the Rosary with children and teenagers:

12 Tips for Praying the Rosary with Kids (repost)

 

A lot of Catholic parents would love to say the  with their kids . . . if the experience wasn’t quite so, erm . . . fraught. Here are twelve strategies for making it work.

This article is adapted from the book 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids

A lot of Catholic parents would love to say the rosary with their kids . . . if the experience wasn’t quite so, erm . . . fraught. At our house, we barely make it out of the preliminaries before the littles are swinging their beads around like lassos . . . which inevitably become airborne missiles . . . and if you have ever been whacked in the face by a rosary mid-Hail Mary, you know it kind of ruins the mood.

Our older kids are better, but I personally remember doing some groaning and eye-rolling as a teen when it came time for the rosary.

Fortunately, we’ve come up with a couple insights that help us to pray the rosary as a family in a more sane and meaningful way.

  1. The rosary is supposed to be a form of meditative prayer. Listen to the words of Pope Paul VI: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas. . . . By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord” (Marialis Cultus #47). Realizing that the rosary is primarily a form of meditative prayer opens up whole new horizons for teens . . . and adults.
  2. The rosary can be adapted to kids. Mary is many things, but she is first and foremost a mom . . . a mom who undoubtedly understands what it is like to deal with kids! (Yeah, Jesus might have been a good kid, but she undoubtedly mothered the children of relatives and neighbors, too.) So why do we feel enslaved to saying the entire rosary with small kids? Realizing that we could do a mini-rosary with the littles made saying the rosary as a family do-able.

So, without further ado, here are some different approaches to praying the rosary with kids.

Younger Children

1. Skip the beads, or get kid-friendly ones.
If you’re praying with children too young to follow direction, say the rosary without the aid of rosary beads. (Very young children may end up whipping them around.) When your kids are old enough, purchase a durable, kid-friendly rosary, such as a cord rosary.  See brightly coloured ‘I am With You’ Rosary Beads for children

2. Start with one decade.
Praying one decade of the rosary should take a little longer than five minutes. Be sure to introduce the mystery in advance; meditate on a different mystery each time, so that you eventually work your way through all the mysteries.  Get my printable modified Rosary booklet with modern pictures

3. Shorten the decades.
Say the entire rosary, but only say three Hail Mary prayers for each decade. This is a good way of introducing your children to the order of the mysteries and the rhythm of the entire rosary; plan on spending about fifteen minutes.

4. Use pictures to aid meditation.
Find pictures (see my free rosary books for children and adults) illustrating each mystery of the rosary. Display the pictures as you briefly explain and then pray each mystery. 

5. Set a prayerful mood.
Before you begin the rosary, set the mood with scented oils, candles or a prayer bell, singing a Marian hymn, or practicing Thirty Seconds of Silence.

6. Ignore the kids and pray.
If your children act up while you’re praying, ignore them as best you can and pray the rosary yourself. Someday, your kids will “grow into” the practice, and in the meantime, Mary, mother of us all, surely sympathizes. A variation: just pray the rosary by yourself, or with your spouse. Tell your kids that mom and dad are going to have their “rosary time,” and shoo them away. That’s what Becky Arganbright did, and before long, all her kids were saying the rosary, too…because they wanted to. Check out her story in Our Accidental Ten-Minute Family Rosary.

Older Children and Teens

In addition to the ideas above, consider the following for older kids and teens:

7. Make your own cord rosaries.
Teens have been crafting their own knotted and dyed rosaries from nylon cord since the 1980s; you can find supplies and instructions at Rosary Army (rosaryarmy.newevangelizers.com).

8. Introduce the rosary as a form of meditation.
As Pope Paul VI says in the quote above, the rosary becomes an empty ritual if it is nothing more than the repetition of words. Instead, take time to introduce each of the mysteries very intentionally, and go over the principles of meditative prayer with your kids. You may also find that introducing other forms of meditative and imaginative prayer—and mixing up the way you pray together as a family—supports and enhances your practice of praying the rosary. And once you’ve introduced the principles of meditative and imaginative prayer so that kids have an idea of what they’re aiming for, then for heaven’s sake, slow it down. Racing through the rosary, as several popes have pointed out, is not ideal. If time is an issue, then try praying a single decade slowly and meditatively.

9. Pray the Scriptural rosary.
As the name implies, the Scriptural rosary incorporates very brief, relevant Scripture readings before each Hail Mary; for example, the first joyful mystery, the Annunciation, would be interspersed with lines from Luke 1, taking the reader through the Biblical account of the Annunciation. You can purchase a Scriptural rosary book or download these free Scriptural Rosary resources. Alternatively, focus on one mystery (and pray one decade) at a time over the course of a month, reading the corresponding Scripture before praying the decade slowly and meditatively. You could also incorporate a lectio divina component to your reflection.

10. Pray with music.
Try praying with soft instrumental music playing in the background; alternatively, preface each mystery with the relevant song from Catholic artist Danielle Rose’s excellent Mysteries, in which she has composed a gently meditative song with appealing contemporary styling for each mystery of the rosary; it’s well-reviewed on Amazon.

11. Get older kids and teens to lead.
Research shows that the more agency we give kids around religious practices, the more likely they are to retain and integrate those practices into adulthood. Letting kids lead prayer is always a good idea, with appropriate support and guidance, so don’t hesitate to let kids lead the rosary with the help of an appropriate resource. You might begin while they’re younger by inviting them to offer their own intentions.

12. Pray the rosary for your kids.
If all else fails, and you just can’t convince your older kids or teens to say the rosary with you, then pray it for them. As you pray, focus on entrusting your kids to the intercession of Mary and the care of her Son, and ask for the humility and grace you need to be a good parent.

Be creative in your family practice of praying the rosary…and be persistent. As Pope John Paul II says, “If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.”

https://www.pbgrace.com/9-tips-for-praying-the-rosary-with-kids/