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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 63-67

Influence of pranayama on breath holding capacity and reaction time of junior state level elite swimmers


1 Department of Scientific Research, Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti; Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University College of Physical Education, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Scientific Research, Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication7-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Tusharkanti Bera
Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University College of Physical Education, Dhankawadi, Pune - 411 043, Maharashtra
India
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DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_19_17

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  Abstract 

Introduction: Sport like swimming requires maximum accuracy in style, fitness, skill and training. Moreover, the swimmers must possess a better reaction time as well as breath holding capacity that saves time for exhibiting best performance.
Objective: It is thought that regular practice of kumbhaka phase of pranayama may improve swimmers' breath holding capacity and reaction time. Since literature is silent about this concept, the present investigation was carried out.
Method: Thirty male state level swimmers (n = 30), age: 16-18 years, volunteered in this study. This experiment considered a single group design, where all the selected subjects were assessed for two variables viz., reaction time and breath holding capacity at the baseline (i.e., 1st test or pre-test). Further, after a 6-week of swimming practice (1½ hours daily in the afternoon), the variables were re-tested (i.e., 2nd test or mid-test). After the 2nd test was over, all the subjects underwent 6 weeks of combined practice (i.e., swimming followed by pranayama) for 1½ hours daily in the morning. Finally, the subjects were assessed for the selected variables (i.e., 3rd test or posttest).
Statistical Analysis: Repeated measures ANOVA followed by Newman-Kuels post hoc test was employed to record influence of pranayama practices on the variables.
Results: The results revealed that swimming plus pranayama training leads to significant increase in breath holding capacity whereas reduction in reaction time.
Conclusion: Pranayama practice leads to significant improvement in breath holding capacity and reaction time of swimmers.

Keywords: Breath holding capacity, pranayama, reaction time, swimmers


How to cite this article:
Bera T, Chourasia K, Shete SU, Verma A. Influence of pranayama on breath holding capacity and reaction time of junior state level elite swimmers. Yoga Mimamsa 2017;49:63-7

How to cite this URL:
Bera T, Chourasia K, Shete SU, Verma A. Influence of pranayama on breath holding capacity and reaction time of junior state level elite swimmers. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Oct 19];49:63-7. Available from: http://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2017/49/2/63/220187


  Introduction Top


Swimming is one of the most popular sports and known as one of the best exercises to improve cardiorespiratory function. To achieve success in swimming competitions, the swimmers need to develop breath holding capacity, reaction time, and vital capacity (Burtch et al., 2017). It is evident from past researches that competitive swimming demands a frequent and prolonged holding of breath. In fact, breath holding induces cardiovascular responses, notably bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction, which are known collectively as the diving response. This response is oxygen conserving, i.e., an augmented response attenuates arterial oxygen desaturation and is enhanced by apnea training (Delahoche et al., 2005). This, in fact, can be achieved through traditional practices of yoga, especially pranayama, because its practices include slow and deep breathing; such style of breathing is economical as it reduces dead space ventilation. It also refreshes air throughout the lungs, in contrast with shallow breathing that refreshes air only at the base of the lungs (Bijlani, 2004). Pranayama breathing has been shown to alter autonomic activity. Udupa, Singh & Settiwar (1975) indicate that pranayama training produces a decrease in basal sympathetic tone. Raghuraj, Ramakrishnan, Nagendra & Telles (1998) have reported that Nadi-shodhana pranayama increases parasympathetic activity. Slow and deep breathing itself has a calming effect on the mind and helps an individual to de-stress (Sandeep, Pandey & Verma, 2002). This calming effect may also exert profound physiological effects on pulmonary, cardiovascular, and mental functions of the brain.

Moreover, earlier studies showed improvement in respiratory function after the practice of yoga (Shankarappa, Prashanth, Annamalai & Malhotra, 2012; Joshi, Joshi & Gokhale, 1992). Pranayama requires breath holding (kumbhaka) which may result in increased parasympathetic control of respiratory centers (Makwana, Khirwadkar & Gupta, 1988). In a study of ten males between the ages of 40 and 60 years with no previous yoga experience, 80% showed improvement in breath holding time after the completion of an intensive yoga program (Courtney & Cohen, 2006). Joshi and Joshi (1998) suggested that the improvement in vital capacity could be attributed in part to increased development and strengthening of respiratory musculature incidental to the regular practice of yogic exercise. Even though there are several studies conducted so far indicating the efficacy of pranayama on cardiorespiratory functions, there are very few studies conducted on sports people, especially on swimmers. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to find out the effect of pranayama on breath holding capacity and reaction time in junior state level elite swimmers.


  Method Top


Participants

Thirty male state level swimmers (n = 30), in the age range of 16–18 years, from Guru Govind Singh Sports College, Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), volunteered in this experiment. The swimmers who practiced swimming regularly with a good level of knowledge in competitive swimming were included, while those who were discarded by the medical doctor as well as the swimming coach were excluded.

Experimental design and protocol

This study considered a single-group design, wherein the experiment was conducted in five phases, i.e. pretest, swimming practice, test-1, pranayama plus swimming practice, and posttest. After receiving written consent from all the participants, pretest (test-1) on two variables (viz., reaction time and breath holding capacity), as the baseline, was conducted. Further, all the participants underwent a 6-week swimming practice daily 1½ h (i.e., 45 min in the morning and 45 min in the afternoon, where all strokes were practiced), except Sundays and holidays. No pranayama practice was given in this session. After completion of swimming practice session of 6 weeks, the participants underwent a testing procedure of the said variables (test-1). After test-1was over, the participants underwent a special 6-week training program on pranayama practice plus swimming. In fact, pranayama practice was given for 45 min in the morning and 45 min for swimming practice in the afternoon except Sundays and holidays for a total period of 6 weeks.

Although the principal intervention was pranayama, some of the yogasanas were incorporated in the schedule because as per traditional text these yogasanas are mandatory prior to pranayamas. The contents of pranayama training were selected on the basis of various reports on yoga and sports and also based on suggestions from the experts of Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Lonavla (India). However, the swimming training involved four specific swimming styles (viz., free style, breast stroke, butterfly, and back stroke) as suggested by swimming coaches. The training intervention has been presented below.

Training interventions

Pranayama training intervention

According to Patanjala Yoga, pranayama is the fourth step of Ashtanga Yoga. Thus, pranayama is an indispensible part of yoga. However, in this investigation, during the 1st week of yoga training, some asanaswere included for preparing the body prior to pranayama practices. As pranayama is practiced in sitting position, padmasana was included in every day's practice.

  • First week: Padmasana, paschimottanasana, dhanurasana, ardha-matsyendrasana, kapalabhati (5–10 rounds), ujjayi (5–10 rounds), anuloma viloma (5–10 rounds), bhastrika (5–10 rounds), shavasana, and OM recitation (5–10 rounds)
  • Second and third weeks: Padmasana, ardha-matsyendrasana, kapalabhati (10–15 rounds), ujjayi (10–15 rounds), anuloma viloma (10–15 rounds), bhastrika (10–15 rounds), shavasana, and OM recitation (10–15 rounds)
  • Fourth week: Padmasana, kapalabhati (15–20 rounds), ujjayi (15–20 rounds), anuloma viloma (15–20 rounds), bhastrika (15–20 rounds), shavasana, and OM recitation (15–20 rounds)
  • Fifth and sixth weeks: Padmasana, kapalabhati (20–25 rounds), ujjayi (20–25 rounds), anuloma viloma (20–25 rounds), bhastrika (20–25 rounds), shavasana, and OM recitation (20–25 rounds).


Swimming training intervention

  • First week: warming up(outside water), specific conditioning(inside water), and practice of freestyle and breast strokes
  • Second and third weeks: warming up (outside water), specific conditioning (inside water), and practice of freestyle, breast stroke, and butterfly stroke
  • Fourth, fifth and sixth week: warming up (outside water), specific conditioning (inside water), and practice of freestyle, breast stroke, butterfly stroke and back stroke.


Assessment

To assess breath holding capacity, the participants were asked to stand in a swimming pool, where the water level was up to chest level. They were instructed to remain inside the water with full immersed condition till they can. As soon as the whistle blows, the officials started stopwatch and simultaneously the participants immersed fully inside the water. Each official was allotted for one participant for the assessment of breath holding capacity. When the participant came up from the water, the respective official stopped the stopwatch immediately and recorded the time duration in milliseconds. Two trials were given to each participant. The final score was recorded as the maximum time (milliseconds) taken by the participant for holding breath while remaining inside the water.

Reaction time was assessed using a simple reaction time apparatus. The experimenter rings the bell as stimulus and the participants were instructed to keep on pressing the stimulus key of the apparatus. As soon as the ring stops, the participant lifts his/her hand from the key as response, thus the apparatus is giving the desired reaction time of the participant. Reaction time was recorded in milliseconds.

Statistical analysis

Considering the nature of experimental design, the data were primarily analyzed to determine the measures of central tendency and dispersion. The research design was single-group design, wherein the selected variables were assessed three times; therefore, repeated measures ANOVA was used as inferential statistics. Further, Newman–Kuels post hoc test was employed to record the comparative effects of pranayama practices on the variables.


  Results Top


The results on variable-wise descriptive statistics indicate that the mean scores in breath holding capacity during pretest, midtest, and posttest were 75.34 (±8.48), 79.26 (±9.04), and 88.64 (±9.28), respectively, whereas, mean scores in reaction time were 0.205 (±0.028), 0.196 (±0.024), and 0.120 (±0.018), respectively.

The results of repeated measures ANOVA revealed that breath holding capacity [Table 1] and reaction time [Table 2] got remarkably significant changes (F = 86.15, p < 0.01). It seems all the training interventions (viz., swimming and swimming plus pranayama) had statistically significant effects in improving breath holding capacity and reaction time. These changes, therefore, were further discriminated using Newman–Kuels post hoc test. The results of post hoc analysis showed that swimming practice (q = 4.53, p < 0.05) and swimming practice plus pranayama training (q = 10.65, p < 0.01) individually could enhance breath holding capacity statistically [Table 1]. Further, it was observed that the overall effect of swimming plus pranayama training was better than only swimming practice in improving breath holding capacity (q = 8.73, p < 0.01).
Table 1: Mean, standard deviation, and post hoc results on breath holding capacity of swimmers

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Table 2: Mean, standard deviation, and post hoc results on reaction time of swimmers

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The results of post hoc analysis showed that swimming practice (q = 4.47, p < 0.05) and swimming practice plus pranayama training (q = 12.06, p < 0.01) individually could enhance reaction time statistically [Table 2]. Further, it was observed that the overall effect of swimming plus pranayama training was better than only swimming practice in improving reaction time (q = 9.18, p < 0.01).


  Discussion Top


The results of this study indicate that pranayama training is effective in improving breath holding capacity and reaction time of swimmers. Swimming is considered as one of the best exercises and its competition is organized from school to university level as well as from subdivision to international level. Depending on the popularity and importance of swimming event, many strategies and advanced techniques have been developed by the scientists from the field of physical education and sports. Especially, during competition, a swimmer needs a good start to win and, for this, he/she must possess a quick response (reaction time) to official's signal. Although there are many factors involved behind a swimmer's winning, breath holding capacity under the water is also an important issue. The present investigation, therefore, considered these two important variables, namely, reaction time and breath holding capacity for elite swimmers. While in search of a new strategy to enhance reaction time and breath holding capacity, the literature of yoga during the recent past revealed that yoga indicates significant improvement in cardiorespiratory function (Bera & Rajapurkar, 1993; Ganguly, 1981; Madanmohan, Udupa, Bhavanani, Vijayalakshmi & Surendran, 2005; Birkel & Edgren, 2000; Jain, Rai, Valecha & Jha, 1991; Raghuraj & Telles, 2008) and other fitness abilities (Bera, Rajapurkar & Ganguly, 1990; Ganguly & Gharote, 1989). Amazingly, these reports indicate that along with other components of yoga almost all the training interventions are composed of different types of pranayama. Therefore, pranayama training may be of immense use in improving fitness abilities of the swimmers.

The result of breath holding capacity revealed significant improvement among the swimmers as a result of pranayama training (q = 10.65, p < 0.01). Moreover, regular practice of pranayama showed better breath holding capacity than swimming (q = 8.73, p < 0.01). Such an improvement in breath holding capacity may be due to the fact that traditionally, pranayama (a component of yoga) gives more stress on Kumbhaka phase (i.e., retention of breath) that might have enhanced swimmers' tolerance to toxicity being produced during swimming and, therefore, its training impact was evidently enhanced. Logically, enhanced duration of Kumbhaka phase of training in pranayama leads to boosted swimmers' anaerobic capacity that might also help to improve breath holding capacity. Thus, daily pranayama training was found better in improving breath holding capacity which is an essential factor to improve swimming performance.

In the case of reaction time, the influence of pranayama training was found tremendously effective (q = 12.06, p < 0.01). Since the participants in this study were short-distance swimmers, proper timing in starting the competition is highly significant and, for this, one must have a better reaction time and neuromuscular coordination. Reaction time is known as the span of time (ms) our muscle works after receiving neural signal. Lesser is the time span, better is the neuromuscular coordination. This leads to an improvement in starting ability resulting in better swimming performance. Earlier studies showed that yoga practices are effective in improving reaction time (Madanmohan et al., 1992; Madanmohan, Bhavanani, Dayanidy, Zeena & Basavaraddi, 2012; Noorjehan, Sendil Kumaran, Venkatesh & Kulkarni, 2012; Rajan, Dixit & Joshi, 2014; Jore, Kamble, Bhutada & Patwardhan, 2013; Borker & Pednekar, 2003). The result of this study indicates that pranayama was found to be effective in reducing the span of reaction time that, in turn, improves better reaction ability among the swimmers.


  Conclusion Top


The result as discussed above indicates that swimmers must include pranayama in their training schedule for enhancing breath holding capacity and reducing reaction capacity which are indeed helpful to exhibit higher performance in swimming.

Acknowledgment

This article is an outlet of a research project for M. Phil course of Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti's Scientific Research Department, Lonavla-410 403, Pune (India). The authors are grateful to Swami Maheshanandaji, Chairman; O. P. Tiwariji, Secretary; and Subodh Tiwariji, CEO, Kaivalyadhama S. M. Y. M Samiti, Lonavla, Pune, India for their encouragement and support.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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