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 Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan with Peter Sleight, M.D.


                                      By M. P. RAVINDRA NATHAN, MD, FACC, FACP, FRCP

During the Annual Scientific Session of American College of Cardiology on April 1, 2008, at McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, one of the most important learning sessions was the seventh annual Maseri-Florio International Lecture: “Music, Mantras and Prayer: The importance of the Autonomic Nervous System to Circulatory Health” by Peter Sleight, MD, Emeritus Professor of Cardiology at Oxford University’s Radcliffe Medical School, an internationally acclaimed cardiologist and researcher. The wonderful title was enough to attract everybody’s attention. And as expected, the big ballroom was overflowing by the time I arrived.

Dr. Sleight discussed the data from his latest research. He and his colleagues investigated physiologic responses to six different types of music in 12 musicians and 12 non-musicians. The music selections consisted of raga (Indian classical music in sitar), Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (slow classical), rap (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Vivaldi (fast classical), techno and Anton Webern (slow, dodecaphonic music). Each participant listened to different sequences of music for two minutes at a stretch, followed by the same selection for four minutes. Two-minute pauses randomly inserted in between the sequences. The parameters checked included blood pressure, heart rate, breathing patterns, skin blood flow and blood flow to brain by Doppler method.

And his findings? "Calm music with a slow tempo can entrain respiration to produce slower breathing," said Dr. Sleight, the study’s senior author. "This is the first study to show that breathing can be easily entrained (modified subconsciously) using music." Slower breathing has been linked to lower blood pressure and may help the lungs work more efficiently. It is the same principle as in ‘pranayama’ or the yogic breathing, quite beneficial to your health. Music with faster tempos and simpler rhythmic structures (like pop, rap, etc.) resulted in increased ventilation, blood pressure and heart rate, the researchers found.

When the music was paused, heart rate, blood pressure and ventilation decreased, sometimes even below the starting rate. This means that the relaxing effect from the music will last even after you stop listening. Slower music caused declines in heart rate, with the largest decline seen with the Indian raga music. After the lecture, I caught up with Professor Sleight to discuss his observations in detail. He told me, “I really like the Indian ragas, they are truly relaxing. Overall, I think a person's musical preference is less important than the music's pace.”

 Many others have researched the effects of music on health since then. One group studied the effect of different music on 10 volunteers. While the volunteers were listening to the music, the researchers measured how well their blood vessels responded to a sudden increase in blood flow caused by the release of a blood pressure cuff. Results showed that when they listened to music that made them feel joyful, their blood vessels dilated (increasing the flow) by 26 percent. By comparison, listening to music that made them anxious and tense caused blood vessels to dilate by only 6 percent. Therefore, joyful music can improve cardiac and blood vessel functions.

Music Therapy

These findings may not surprise many of you but it is always good to have scientific validation of our beliefs. In fact all of us know that slow melodious music such as classical Indian music, South Indian Carnatic especially, is always calming and a great stress buster. In some of the agricultural experiments in India, the paddy fields exposed to music coming from mega microphones planted at the middle of the fields tended to produce a bigger crop than the control group.       

          Positive effects on health have been linked to the Catholic rosary prayers (like ave maria) and chanting mantras. Sleight's team has published similar effects from yoga and repetitive prayers. In an interesting experiment using harp music, one cardiac electrophysiologist, Dr. Abraham Kocheril from Urbana, Ill., concluded that the abnormal heart rhythms could be regulated better when patients are undergoing certain cardiac procedures. The sound vibrations emanating from plucking on a harp seem to help many patients deal with chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions too. ‘Harp therapy’ also is commonly used to soothe dying patients under hospice care.

As you all know, that stress has a major impact on nearly every disease in the body especially cardiovascular diseases and psychosomatic diseases and relaxing music is one way to reduce the stress. "Music can not only reduce stress, but it can enhance the therapy that one gets," said Dr. Vincent Marchello, vice president of medical affairs for Metropolitan Jewish Health System, and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, both in New York City.

The Healing Power of Music - Part 2 continued in the next issue.

Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan is a Brooksville cardiologist and director of the Hernando Heart Clinic.








Anger must be a very beautiful thing, because a lot of people have taken to it, like Coca-Cola. Probably more people are into anger than Coca-Cola, isn't it? So it must be a great thing that so many people have chosen it. But they have not chosen; they have helplessly fallen into it, that's the problem.

They have fallen into it or in a way they have chosen it unconsciously because the most intense moments in their lives is either pain or anger. These are the only two intensities that they know and every human being always longs for intensity. So, today watching such sports has become a big thing because you could never watch a battle like that before.

You remember the film “The Gladiators,” these gladiators – it is still a sport, a wild sport; war was a sport. Because it is not the violence, it is not the blood, it is not the killing that people like; people want to see something intense. Now, why are all these thrillers, action movies and sports events so popular? It is because people want some intensity, somewhere. They don't know how to be intense. Either through physical action, or through anger, or through pain – this is the only way they know how to be intense.

The reason drugs and sex have become such a big factor is because they want to experience some intensity, at least for a few moments. It is the intensity, which draws them. And as you know, I am always talking about intensity because that is the only thing that man is seeking, and that is the only thing that will liberate man from his present bondages.

Anger has enormous intensity; it is an intensity, which hurts you. It's an intensity, which can get you into a lot of trouble. It's an intensity, which can destroy the people around you and yourself, in so many ways. It's an intensity, which gets you into absolutely stupid states of action. So, your attachment to anger is not just anger, it's just that you like the intensity of it. Though you know it causes so much damage, here and there you want to get into anger.

And people like the angry man. For example when you watch a movie if your hero – the Hollywood man - is a calm and quiet you're not so interested in him. But, if he's an angry man, who stands up and does things in anger, not peacefully, you like him because he's got intensity. So, you would like to do the same thing but you pay a big price trying to be angry in the situations in which you live; because people around you are going to get even angrier with you, and they will get back at you.

So, don't worry about your anger. At least in anger, you're becoming intense. It's time to transform this intensity into higher levels of intensity where it's beautiful. At least, somebody's able to get angry, I'm happy. I can't bear with the people, who eat eight meals a day and are lethargic, nothing happens within them; they don't even get angry. If anger is happening, at least some life is cooking within you; life is still kicking, you know?

Sadhguru Vasudev is a yogi and mystic with profound mastery of the ancient science of yoga.  At his home in southern India, Sadhguru oversees Isha Foundation, a volunteer-run, nonprofit service organization dedicated to cultivating human potential through yogic science.  At the core of the foundation's initiatives is a customized system of yoga called Inner Engineering – a set of programs and practices specially designed to address the challenges of modern living.

The Inner Engineering class is scheduled to be held at the Museum of Science & Industry, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, from Dec 9-15. There is a free introductory talk open to all from 7 to 8 p.m. on Dec 9. For more information, visit http://www.ishayoga.org/ or call (813) 413-1661 or email tampa@ishafoundation.org




Namaste readers! Wishing happiness to everyone, everywhere as the year 2010 begins.

This column covers the remaining four limbs and completes the introduction to Patanjali’s Astanga yog. From next column, we will focus on different aspects of its practice and benefits.

5. Pratyahara or drawing the senses inward

When the mind’s focus immerses with the breathing and the movement of the body, it is so focused that you become unaware of the outside situations. Your focus becomes inward and you are no longer distracted by the outside events. The mind becomes non-reactionary to the perceptions of the five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, and a nonjudgmental self-awareness arise.

6. Dharana or concentration

Dharana is training and directing the mind to focus without any distraction. To achieve this, you can focus your mind, engaging all five senses and self awareness, into an object at a time, for a specific time period, such as a candlelight, a picture, a task or on your breath with complete mindfulness. In a non-reactionary way, the nonjudgmental self-awareness expands, and insights or knowledge about your self and your object is gained. This serves as a preparation for meditation.

7. Dhyana or meditation

Meditation is the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind. There are two stages of the practice.

One is getting there. There are countless techniques, visualizations, imagery, Kriyas and guided meditations to train the mind to become still and one-pointed focused. The mind becomes clear.

Second is, once you gain a one-pointed focus, then sustaining and retaining your focus. This unwavering state can’t be achieved; it happens naturally with a diligent and dedicated regular practice. In this steadfast, Achal – state – the nonjudgmental self-awareness expands, perceives and recognizes its real nature, and experiences oneness, the union, the Yog. There is no separation between the observer and the object. There is only nonjudgmental awareness experiencing itself, arising above all the emotions and residing in blissfulness, a state called, Sat_Chit_Anand. It is an uninterrupted flow of concentration, heightening one’s awareness of oneness with the whole creation.

8. Samadhi or enlightenment

This is the ultimate goal of the eight limbs of Yoga. It is characterized by the state of ecstasy and the feeling that you and the universe are one. It is a state of peace and completion, awareness and compassion with detachment. There is no more self-identity.

Briefly, reviewing the whole eight limb system of Patanjali’s Astanga Yog:

1. Yamas - Your attitude toward others and the world around you.

2. Niyamas - How you treat yourself or your attitude toward yourself.

3. Asana - Body awareness, physical movements, poses.

4. Pranayama - The breath awareness and breathing exercises.

5. Pratyahara –Mind’s perceptions of the five senses without judgment or reaction.

6. Dharana – Concentration of the mind.

7. Dhyana – Meditation, unwavering – Achal – focus of the one-pointed mind.

8. Samadhi – Enlightenment, no personal identity.

The practice of yoga does not only deal with developing the body but also covers all the aspect of a person's life as stated in the eight limbs of yoga. It is concerned about the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of an individual as well as his/her environment and relationship with other creatures. Real practice of these eight principles leads to deeper self-knowledge, love and respect toward other people and creatures, cleaner environment, healthy diet and union with the Divine, the real Yog.

To be continued …

Achala K. Rao is a certified Integrative Yoga Therapy instructor, Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and energy healing practitioner in Valrico. She can be reached at 813-716-7026 or e-mail achalakrao@yahoo.com  

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