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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 Often, the Rosary gets boxed in as an outdated, boring or overly-traditional and those of us who love it and want to share it are at times scrambling for modern ways to explain its benefits.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/