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Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 22 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1446
  1. Luciano Bernardi (lbern1ps{at}, associate professor of internal medicinea,
  2. Peter Sleight, professorb,
  3. Gabriele Bandinelli, physicianc,
  4. Simone Cencetti, physicianc,
  5. Lamberto Fattorini, physicianc,
  6. Johanna Wdowczyc-Szulc, assistant professor of cardiologyd,
  7. Alfonso Lagi, physicianc
  1. a Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy
  2. b Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU
  3. c Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Unitá Ospedaliera S Maria Nuova, 50100 Florence, Italy
  4. d Department of Cardiology, University of Gdansk, 80–211 Gdansk, Poland
  1. Correspondence to: L Bernardi


    Objective: To test whether rhythmic formulas such as the rosary and yoga mantras can synchronise and reinforce inherent cardiovascular rhythms and modify baroreflex sensitivity.

    Design: Comparison of effects of recitation of the Ave Maria (in Latin) or of a mantra, during spontaneous and metronome controlled breathing, on breathing rate and on spontaneous oscillations in RR interval, and on blood pressure and cerebral circulation.

    Setting: Florence and Pavia, Italy.

    Participants: 23 healthy adults.

    Main outcome measures: Breathing rate, regularity of breathing, baroreflex sensitivity, frequency of cardiovascular oscillations.

    Results: Both prayer and mantra caused striking, powerful, and synchronous increases in existing cardiovascular rhythms when recited six times a minute. Baroreflex sensitivity also increased significantly, from 9.5 (SD 4.6) to 11.5 (4.9) ms/mm Hg, P<0.05.

    Conclusion: Rhythm formulas that involve breathing at six breaths per minute induce favourable psychological and possibly physiological effects.

    What is already known on this topic

    What is already known on this topic Reduced heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity are powerful and independent predictors of poor prognosis in heart disease

    Slow breathing enhances heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity by synchronising inherent cardiovascular rhythms

    What this study adds

    What this study adds Recitation of the rosary, and also of yoga mantras, slowed respiration to almost exactly 6/min, and enhanced heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity

    The rosary might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice


    • Funding None.

    • Competing interests None declared.

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