Breathing is coherent when it creates a sine wave pattern in the heart rate. The breath and the heart synchronize and together develop the physiological state coherence with optimized energy output and balanced body function.
Numerous scientific studies have shown the beneficial effects of coherence. The blood wave that is rising in the venous and arterial trees during coherent breathing is largest during coherence which means that circulation reached its maximum potential. With improved circulation comes blood gas balance and therefore optimal oxygen availability to cells. At the same time, the sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric nervous system are stimulated in even measures.*
Coherent breathing was known and practiced by yogis in the olden days. Yogi Ramacharaka in “The Science of Breath” describes an ancient yogic practice whereby the breath rate follows heart rate. Give it a try: Sitting comfortably in a calm environment, find your pulse using your forefinger preferably on your wrist. First, simply observe your heart’s beating for a moment or two. Next, count your heart beats and start synchronizing your breathing. Breathe in for a heart beat count of four or five and breathe out for the same count. Breathe as evenly as possible using your diaphragm with chest relaxed.
After a short time you should feel that the way your heart beats changes as a rhythm develops: when you breathe in your heart rate speeds up, when you breathe out your heart rate slows down**. If you were to look at your heart rate on a monitor you would see a sine wave.
While practising coherence in this way is perfectly fine, there now exist a number of affordable sensors and software that allow us to see the effects of coherent breathing on any screen in real time***. This way also allows us see how high the waves are. The higher the wave the stronger the coherence and the more beneficial the effect on the body. This is known as heart rate variability biofeedback training. It makes coherent breathing accessible and inviting.
As a trained practitioner I teach coherent breathing individually and in groups. When clients first come to see me they may have trouble developing coherence – often a result of nervous system imbalance. But with just a bit of daily practice and practitioner support, the ability to breathe coherently is relearned. Training in groups is particularly potent as the coherent electromagnetic energy field created by the heart affects everyone present. In this way hearts synchronise and start talking at an energetic level.
* This is of specific interest to Tantric Yogis
** If this doesn’t happen for you please consult your doctor or a breathing therapist trained in this area.
*** Simply search for heart rate variability in the AppStore.