The Impact of Slow Breathing Techniques on Stress Reduction

A pioneering study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (May 2023 issue) titled “Slow breathing for reducing stress: The effect of extending exhale” examines the impact of different slow breathing techniques on stress reduction. This important research, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, researches into whether varying breath ratios during slow breathing have differential effects on psychological and physiological stress in healthy adults.

Study Overview and Methodology

The study, conducted over 12 weeks, involved 100 participants in a randomized, single-blinded trial. The focus was on comparing two types of yoga-based slow breathing techniques: one where the exhale duration was greater than the inhale (E > I) and the other where exhale and inhale durations were equal (E = I). The objective was to find out whether these breathing practices produced measurable differences in both physiological and psychological stress levels.

Key Findings:-

Regular Practice and Adherence: Participants attended an average of 10.7 out of 12 yoga sessions and practiced at home 4.8 times per week on average. Adherence to the assigned breathing ratios was confirmed through remote biometric assessments.

Reduction in Psychological Stress: The study found that regular practice of slow breathing over 12 weeks significantly reduced psychological stress, as measured by the PROMIS Anxiety scale. This reduction was observed regardless of the breathing technique used.

Physiological Stress and Breath Ratios: In terms of physiological stress, as measured by heart rate variability, there was no significant reduction observed. Furthermore, the study concluded that the different breath ratios (E > I vs. E = I) did not significantly affect the reduction of either psychological or physiological stress among the participants

Conclusion and Implications:

The study’s findings highlight that while slow breathing techniques are effective in reducing psychological stress, the specific ratio of exhale to inhale does not significantly influence the level of stress reduction in healthy adults. This research provides valuable insights for practitioners and individuals seeking to manage stress through breathing techniques, Suggesting that the focus should be on the practice of slow breathing itself rather than the specific ratios of breathing.

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