This is fascinating to those of us who love empowering others with evidence-based wellbeing strategies. Here is scientific evidence to show why we FEEL so grounded, relaxed and calmer when we pray the Rosary.
When we pray the Hail Mary out loud with our long, slow exhales, we are breathing at the most ideal rate for calming our nervous system, major organs, positive emotions, heart rate and brain activity.
The long breaths stimulate the vagus nerve which switches us from the sympathetic system of ‘fight or flight’ to the parasympathetic system of ‘rest and digest’.
The vagus nerve is responsible for 75% of the operations of the parasympathetic nervous system. The more we do to activate it, like deep breathing, the more we heal ourselves from the stressful the effects of the sympathetic nervous system.
When we breathe slowly, our heart slows, we feel safe, we can think more clearly, flow with happier chemicals, feel peaceful, digest properly and we relax. The sympathetic nervous system keeps us stressed out and strung out, so we need to find ways to heal and restore.
Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann, associate professor of neurology at NYU-Langone studied the effect of slow breathing on the vagus nerve.
She explains, “Vagal activity is highest, and heart rate lowest, when you’re exhaling.” The vagus nerve is listening to the way we breathe and it sends messages to the brain and the heart accordingly. Slow breaths reduce the strain on the heart making it more relaxed and this is what principally relaxes us.
Norcliffe-Kaufmann mentioned that the ideal, most calming way to breathe is six times a minute. She noted 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.”
When you pray the Rosary out loud, it will have an immediately positive effect on your body. Your slow exhales will activate your Vagas Nerve and switch on your calming, healing parasympathetic nervous system.
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