The art of living and the science of breath- implications for sports medicine

Por: Catherine Despina Kjerulf e F. Saatcioglu.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Today, it is well accepted that sports performance is not all physical. Mental components play important roles in peak performance and achieving excellence. For example, stress management has been proven an effective tool with those who strive for excellence in Olympic sports and in the high end of amateur sports. Conversely, research has shown that athletes are particularly vulnerable to developing illness at critical times of the competitive season due to stresses of intensive training loads and of the competition itself. From a medical standpoint, these findings are not surprising: The close connection between mind and body has been recognized since ancient times and has influenced the traditional healing arts from cultures around the world for millennia. The importance of bi-directional interactions between the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, and their relevance to disease states, has been recognized and now widely documented by modern medical science. It is therefore important for the competitive athlete to have a ‘mind-body’ approach to his/her discipline.


The Art of Living Course, taught by the Art of Living Foundation, an international non-profit educational organization, is a stress reduction and health promotion program that has been learned by 2 million people in 146 countries worldwide. This course is completed over several days, taking several hours daily. It includes cognitive coping and stressor appraisal strategies, simple stretching exercises, and specific breathing techniques (AOL practices). Participants also receive a 20-30 minute daily program to continue independently at home. This course and the home practice regimen have been reported to lead to significant improvements in emotional and physical well-being in individuals regardless of age, sex, religion, socioeconomic status, educational or cultural background.


Recent medical research on the Art of Living practices has demonstrated enhanced psychological and physiological functioning among participants. The research studies among these that are especially relevant to competitive athletes will be reviewed. This initial body of research suggests that Art of Living practices may be an effective behavioral modality for competitive athletes.






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