HeartMath and Coherence: the Science of Syncing up

I’ve been using a special tool sometimes when I meditate. It’s a device that measures your Heart Rate Variability. It’s a biofeedback tool. I just think that it’s a very useful tool. Since I’ve been using it, I’ve managed to increase my coherence, achieving up to 89% high coherence during my meditation. You will understand the measurement algorithm better once you read about it and experience it, but it is not necessary to understand it in order to benefit. Heart Math

Here is the gist of it. The brain and the heart are in two-way communication via the nervous system. Studies show that emotions determine heart rhythms. The electromagnetic field generated by the heart changes based on the rhythm pattern of the heart. Regulating stress and transforming it is based on modifying your behavior by modifying your perceptions. What heart rate variability measures is the differences from beat-to-beat in the heart rate. Research has demonstrated that a calmer person exhibits more variability in the HRV wave form, and that certain pathologies correlate with low HRV. Higher coherence indicates synchronization within the autonomic nervous system, since heart rate and rhythm are mostly under the control of the autonomic nervous system. Research also indicates that a person can train and improve there coherence through a biofeedback tool, developed by HeartMath, a tool that measures HRV.

“A number of studies have shown that HRV is an important indicator of both physiological resiliency and behavioral flexibility, reflecting an individual’s capacity to adapt effectively to stress and environmental demands. It has become apparent that while a large degree of instability is detrimental to efficient physiological functioning, too little variation can also be pathological. An optimal level of variability within an organism’s key regulatory systems is critical to the inherent flexibility and adaptability that epitomize healthy function.

The normal variability in heart rate is due to the synergistic action of the two branches of the ANS, which act in concert with mechanical, hormonal and other physiological mechanisms to maintain cardiovascular system parameters in their optimal ranges and to permit appropriate reactions to changing external or internal conditions. Many people are surprised to learn that the heart actually sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart via the ANS, and that the rhythmic patterns produced by the heart directly affect the brain’s ability to process information, including decision-making, problem-solving and creativity.” (Source, n.d.)

Also, if you are interested in this device, or learning about, I encourage you to review the following book:

Childre, D. & Rozman, D. (2005). Transforming Stress: The HeartMath solution for relieving worry, fatigure, and tension.Oakland, CA:New Harbinger Publication, Inc.

5 thoughts on “HeartMath and Coherence: the Science of Syncing up

  1. Hi Ka,

    How are you?

    I’ve posted a reply to this particular blog, and fascinating it is too, as it somehow returns me to the beginning of a circle of investigation and enquiry that I have been following regarding relaxation techniques, and specifically relaxation methods that might be applicable to Empaths. That is not to suggest that I consider myself an Empath, more that I have an overemphasised sensitivity to the emotional needs and feelings of other people and find it difficult to switch off. Whether this is due to a natural disposition, an acquired sense of love for humanity, or learnt as a result of meeting and engaging with thousands and thousands of people during the course of my nomadic life here in the UK I cannot say. Perhaps it is a combination of them all. Your posting brings to my attention the physiological determinants that are at play during periods of meditation and how the heart and mind are so evidently related in communication with each other: one very much effecting the other. Often we hear the phrase ‘the head ruling the heart’ and this is substantiated by the content of your post. What I hadn’t necessarily realised, and I imagine it is because I have a tendency to be a little over-involved with the mind’s reasoning is that ‘the heart actually sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.’ This is quite revelatory. I had never considered the body operating in this way before where signal transmission is broadcast from outside of the mind by organs, rather than the mind controlling their functioning alone. I thought everything operated from the mind, that the mind was aware of the entirety of the body and made adjustments where needed to compensate, modify, improve, regulate and control behaviour as required. However it does make sense although it is a little hard to grasp at first. It makes me aware that the mind itself can be very easily fooled by the body in which it is housed: for example, alarming though it is, the onset of a heart attack is not predetermined by the mind, the heart simply fails suddenly and the mind is then informed. It’s almost as if the mind operates by periodically updating itself like a computer, that it isn’t really operating in ‘real time’ or in absolute synch with the body, which is quite a curious thing.

    Your post also suggests that ‘perception’ is one of the main variables in controlling the variance of stress. I find this is also very interesting. The whole concept of perceiving is a difficult subject to understand: intuition is a formidable entity, both as a driver for the imagination, and also as a spectral-like host for the receiving of accumulated stimuli. If information is received in the subconscious before it is rationalised differentiating between aspects of it on the basis of ownership can be difficult: one doesn’t want to quieten the imagination as a rich resource of ideas, but equally, one doesn’t want to lose the intuitive faculty either. Your posting might suggest that the heart is also a ‘receiver’ of stimuli and reacts accordingly to increase or decrease its rhythm. Again I had never considered this before either, and it has opened my eyes to a different way of considering the internal body as a system responding to external stimulus, with all parts being self-determining and aware, and as such having influence on thought. Very interesting!

    Although I cannot remember the name of the book, I recall reading a short entry discussing the effects climate has on people’s behaviour. The American Institute of Medical Climatology published a report on the effect a full moon has on human behaviour in which it records that crimes with strong psychotic motivations, such as arson, kleptomania, destructive driving, and homicidal alcoholism all showed marked peaks when the moon was full. Leonard Ravitz, a neurologist and psychiatric consultant reported in the article that he had discovered a direct physiological connection between man and moon, which he believed explained these correlations. He had for many years been measuring the differences in electrical potential between the head and the chest of patients with mental health conditions. He also tested passers-by selected at random and found that all people show a cyclic pattern that changes from day-to-day and that the greatest differences between head and chest reading occurred at full-moon, particularly in mental health patients. Ravitz suggested that as the full moon modifies earth’s magnetic field, these changes precipitate crisis in people who mental health balance is already precarious. If I remember the article correctly, Ravitz stated, ‘whatever else we may be, we are electrical machines. Thus energy reserves may be mobilised by periodic universal factors (such as the forces behind the moon) which tend to aggravate maladjustment and conflicts already present.’

    The article would imply that there are some huge forces acting upon us for which we have no real control in how they influence our behaviour. Given that we are a product of star-dust and therefore inextricably interwoven with the fabric of the entire universe, it is not only difficult to determine where ‘I’ end and the ‘universe’ begins, but one imagines that whatever forces combine to act upon the universe must also act upon us…’as above so below according to the one thing’. If I were to try and establish a link between your article and the one I’ve quoted then I might suggest that an individual’s perception is not only determined by internal and external factors and their mechanism of differentiation between imagination, intuition, and rational thought, but is further influenced by the forces thrust upon us by an overarching dynamic cosmos as well. Given such perturbations in our life, is it little wonder that on a local level here on Earth the unseen discreet influence of another human being can be intuited within the very sensitive soul of a receiving body so dramatically as to elicit an emotional response, and why it is that meditative practice is so difficult for some to achieve as a way of reducing stress and anxiety. Nature never stops flowing, therefore neither do the forces existing between all things. The crystalline web that joins us is constantly vibrating and in this way we are all able to feel the changing moods and emotions innate in life. Telescoping down one might even then be able to feel the changing moods and emotions of just one single personas well. Perhaps what I am really describing on one level is collective consciousness, and on the macro level the emanation of that consciousness from one being to another?

    Thank you Ka for your informative Blog site, and for your time and effort in putting it together so as to share your thoughts and considered words with others. I believe that the transmission of thoughts, however they may manifest, is one of the most important of all human activities, not only does it allow us to grow closer to an understanding and acceptance of each other, and therefore our species as a whole, but it also allows us as individuals to pause to reflect on ourselves as well, and in truth that can only be a good thing. I know I’ve learnt form your post, and will undoubtedly learn more from reading further on your Blog. I’ve become a follower.

    DN – 06/04/14

    1. Hi Dewin,

      It seems that this blog posting was a good experience for you! You are welcome to visit and learn, and I’m glad to connect with you! Have a beautiful week! 🙂 I did have a lovely weekend, and do try to get to my blog as often as possible, but rarely is it often enough! The ebb and flow of writing, reading, and thinking often brings me into the process of quietude and meditation. I work hard to balance my life along with my breath. 🙂 Namaste

      Ka

  2. Dear Ka… thank you for directing me here.. And How did I know the video may contain my favourite man.. Gregg Braden.. 🙂 Yes I love how our hearts connect us all and how the beat of them our feelings connect not only to each other but to the vibration of the Earth.. Causing the Blip in the readings as people’s compassion and hearts were affected by 911..
    Loved reading about this method of meditation.. I often meditate trying ( not always successful ) to listen to my heart beat.. and focusing too upon my breath..
    I once upon a time when I was awaiting to see a Dr in a hospital in a stressful situation, I sat and meditated to calm my nerves down.. The nurse came along and said she would take my Blood pressure prior to going in to see the consultant…
    She was shocked, as my blood pressure was so low.. She had to do it again.. She said it was off the scale and jokingly said Was I alive as she had never seen it so low.. She then blamed the equipment for the error.. as I quickly started to bring myself back up and breathe deeper..
    Thank you for sharing this with us Ka…

  3. Pingback: Vernal Equinox – Springin’ it! – Fiesta Estrellas

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