First, a bit of science
Our Autonomic Nervous System is the part of our nervous system that governs automatic bodily functions like breathing, digestion and our heart beat, The ANS is in turn divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Both regulate the same bodily functions but have opposite jobs. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity (fight or flight); while the parasympathetic nervous system prepares the body for relaxation and rest.
While we are awake, our optimal state is when both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are in balance. When brain function, heart rate and breathing are all in balance, we cope with stress better, we are more sociable and positive, and tend to be more resilient.
When we are stressed, however, our bodies stay in high alert, with our sympathetic nervous systems constantly firing. Although still evolving, research into HRV and coherence is showing a link between lower coherence and disease and aging.
Coherent or resonant breathing works by hacking the ANS to bring both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems back into balance almost instantly.
You can find a number of apps that help you track your own personal coherence index and HRV. I use WellTory. The results below show my body before and after 5 minutes of Coherent Breathing.
How to Practise Coherent Breathing
Relax and find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Breathe in for 6 seconds. Then breathe out for 6 seconds. If 6 seconds feels too long, start with 4 seconds and build up to 6 seconds. Make sure both your inhalation and exhalation are the same length.
Start with a minute or two then build up gradually to however long feels comfortable. Some recommend a daily practise of 20 minutes, but I tend to follow the principle of “little and often” as a guide,
You can find a number of apps that help guide you through a timed breathing technique. Calm’s Breathe setting allows you to set the timings for your breath and plays a different note for inhales and exhales (so you can practise with your eyes closed.).
The Breathing App by Deepak Chopra and Eddie Stern (with music by Moby) allows you to choose from a pre-selected format of breathing patterns with five different screens.
Try the Inner Calm Meditation
Banish the stresses of the day and unlock inner calm and balance. This 15-minute guided meditation is designed to calm frayed nerves and soothe the body’s stress response, allowing you to slip into your own personal inner oasis of peace and stillness.
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