Is spirituality a critical ingredient of meditation?

Wachholtz, A. B., & Pargament, K. I. (2005). Is spirituality a critical ingredient of meditation? Comparing the effects of spiritual meditation, secular meditation, and relaxation on spiritual, psychological, cardiac, and pain outcomes. Journal of behavioral medicine28(4), 369-384. Full text.

Abstract. This study compared secular and spiritual forms of meditation to assess the benefits of a spiritual intervention.

Participants were taught a meditation or relaxation technique to practice for 20 min a day for two weeks. After two weeks, participants returned to the lab, practiced their technique for 20 min, and placed their hand in a cold-water bath of 2◦C for as long as they could endure it. The length of time that individuals kept their hand in the water bath was measured. Pain, anxiety, mood, and the spiritual health were assessed following the two-week intervention.

Significant interactions occurred (time × group); the Spiritual Meditation group had greater decreases in anxiety and more positive mood, spiritual health, and spiritual experiences than the other two groups. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long as the other two groups.

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Diaphragmatic breathing

Yokogawa, M., et al. (2018). Comparison of two instructions for deep breathing exercise: non-specific and diaphragmatic breathing. Journal of physical therapy science30(4), 614-618. Full text.

Abstract. [Purpose] Breathing exercises are frequently prescribed to reduce pulmonary complications after abdominal and thoracic surgery. Appropriate instructions ensuring the integrity of the self-exercise are important. This study compared the effects of two instructions, focusing on non-specific breathing (NB) and diaphragmatic breathing (DB) patterns, respectively, on the ventilatory efficiency and work of breathing. 

[Subjects and Methods] The participants were healthy men (n=15) and women (n=15). Ventilatory parameters, heart rate, and autonomic nervous system activity were measured during natural and deep breathing phases performed under the two instructions (NB and DB), with the deep breathing phase following the natural breathing phase.

[Results] For both men and women, ventilatory efficiency was increased during deep breathing relative to natural breathing, regardless of the instructions. In women, the increment in ventilatory efficiency during deep breathing was greater under NB compared to that under DB. The work of breathing decreased during deep breathing in women under both instructions, but did not change in men under DB.

[Conclusion] Under NB instruction, deep breathing elicits similar or greater effects on ventilatory efficiency compared to that under DB instruction.