breathing and poetry

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

Everyone knows that breathing is important, but can reciting poetry increase health? Of course. From October Scientific American

Cardiovascular and respiratory responses are not normally in sync. Rhythmic fluctuations in blood pressure take place naturally in 10-second-long cycles known as Mayer waves, whereas spntaneous breathing normally occurs at a rate of approximately 15 breaths per minute.

Dirk Cysarz of the Herdecke Community Hospital and Institute of Mathematics at the University of Witten/Herdecke wanted to explore the connection between these ocsillating mechanisms, which are known to couple weakly at times. The type of poetry was a key aspect of the study. Cysarz and his colleagues specifically used Homer’s Odyssey translated into German, which maintains the original hexametric pace of the verse–that is, six meters, or rhythmic units, per line. . . .

For this study, healthy subjects practiced three activities: hexameter reading, controlled breathing at six breaths per minute and spontaneous breathing. They recited while walking, breathing and lifting their arms. The researchers found increased synchronization between heart rate and breathing during the poetry readings but not during the spontaneous breathing. Controlled breathing also boosted synchronization, though not to the extent of recitation . . .


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