Squeeze the beat: Enhancing cardiac vagal activity during resonance breathing via coherent pelvic floor recruitment

Author: Josef Martin Tatschl1, Andreas Richard Schwerdtfeger1
1 Department of Psychology, Health Psychology Unit, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
Conference/Journal: Psychophysiology
Date published: 2022 Jun 20
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/psyp.14129. , Word Count: 210

Resonance breathing (RB) has been shown to benefit health and performance within clinical and non-clinical populations. This is attributed to its baroreflex stimulating effect and the concomitant increase in cardiac vagal activity (CVA). Hence, developing methods that strengthen the CVA boosting effect of RB could improve its clinical effectiveness. Therefore, we assessed whether supplementing RB with coherent pelvic floor activation (PRB), which has been shown to entrain the baroreflex, yields stronger CVA than standard RB. N = 32 participants performed 5-min of RB and PRB, which requires to recruit the pelvic floor during the complete inspiratory phase and release it at the initiation of the expiration. CVA was indexed via heart rate variability using RMSSD and LF-HRV. PRB induced significantly larger RMSSD (d = 1.04) and LF-HRV (d = 0.75, ps < .001) as compared to RB. Results indicate that PRB induced an additional boost in CVA relative to RB in healthy individuals. However, subsequent studies are warranted to evaluate whether these first findings can be replicated in individuals with compromised health, including a more comprehensive psychophysiological assessment to potentially elucidate the origin of the observed effects. Importantly, longitudinal studies need to address whether PRB translates to better treatment outcomes.

Keywords: baroreflex; cardiac vagal activity; heart rate variability; pelvic floor; resonance breathing; slow-paced breathing.

PMID: 35722933 DOI: 10.1111/psyp.14129