Copyright ©The Author(s) 2016. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Clin Cases. Apr 16, 2016; 4(4): 99-102
Published online Apr 16, 2016. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v4.i4.99
Breath-based meditation: A mechanism to restore the physiological and cognitive reserves for optimal human performance
Kirtigandha Salwe Carter, Robert Carter III
Kirtigandha Salwe Carter, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX 76107, United States
Robert Carter III, Tactical Combat Casualty Care Research Program, United States Army Institute of Surgical Research, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam, Houston, TX 76107, United States
Author contributions: Both authors contributed equally to this work.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflict of interest.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Correspondence to: Kirtigandha Salwe Carter, MBBS, MPH, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 2500 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107, United States. drkirticarter@gmail.com
Telephone: +1-210-7730307
Received: September 6, 2015
Peer-review started: September 8, 2015
First decision: October 16, 2015
Revised: January 3, 2016
Accepted: February 14, 2016
Article in press: February 16, 2016
Published online: April 16, 2016

Stress can be associated with many physiological changes resulting in significant decrements in human performance. Due to growing interests in alternative and complementary medicine by Westerners, many of the traditions and holistic yogic breathing practices today are being utilized as a measure for healthier lifestyles. These state-of-the-art practices can have a significant impact on common mental health conditions such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder. However, the potential of yogic breathing on optimizing human performance and overall well-being is not well known. Breathing techniques such as alternate nostril, Sudarshan Kriya and bhastrika utilizes rhythmic breathing to guide practitioners into a deep meditative state of relaxation and promote self-awareness. Furthermore, yogic breathing is physiologically stimulating and can be described as a natural “technological” solution to optimize human performance which can be categorized into: (1) cognitive function (i.e., mind, vigilance); and (2) physical performance (i.e., cardiorespiratory, metabolism, exercise, whole body). Based on previous studies, we postulate that daily practice of breathing meditation techniques play a significant role in preserving the compensatory mechanisms available to sustain physiological function. This preservation of physiological function may help to offset the time associated with reaching a threshold for clinical expression of chronic state (i.e., hypertension, depression, dementia) or acute state (i.e., massive hemorrhage, panic attic) of medical conditions. However, additional rigorous biomedical research is needed to evaluate the physiological mechanisms of various forms of meditation (i.e., breath-based, mantra, mindfulness) on human performance. These efforts will help to define how compensatory reserve mechanisms of cardiovascular and immune systems are modulated by breath-based meditation. While it has been suggested that breath-based meditation is easier for beginning practitioners when compared to other forms of meditation more research is needed to elucidate these observations. A breath-based meditation sequence such as Sudarshan Kriya has the potential to help develop an individual’s self-awareness and support better integration of the brain (i.e., mind) with other organ systems (i.e., body) for enhanced human performance.

Keywords: Meditation, Breathing technique, Cognitive reserve, Neurophysiology, Stress, Human performance, Emotional regulation

Core tip: Breath-based meditation has potential benefits for patients with chronic diseases and mental health disorders to otherwise healthy individuals interested in optimizing their physical and cognitive performance.