Q. When the HeartMath Institute recommends that I do heart-focused breathing, what exactly is that? You can’t actually breathe with your heart. Right?
A. That’s right. You still breathe with your lungs. Heart-focused breathing is certainly about breathing, as the name implies, but HeartMath places great emphasis on the heart, and years of research says you should, too.
Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal. As you breathe in, imagine you are doing so through your heart, and, as you breathe out, imagine it is through your heart. (In the beginning, placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help you in directing your focus to your heart.)
Typically, HeartMath recommends that you breathe in about 5 to 6 seconds and breathe out 5 to 6 seconds. Be sure your breathing is smooth, unforced and comfortable. Although this is not difficult to do, It may take a little time to become used to it, but eventually you will establish your own natural rhythm.
Heart-focused breathing won’t take a lot of time out of your day, but it can add lots of benefits to your life. Many people find that heart-focused breathing is an excellent way to start and finish their days, but there are times in between when it is especially beneficial. Try it during a break on the job, at school or while working around the house.
There is no more important time for a few minutes of heart-focused breathing than when you feel your stress buttons being pushed. These vary from one person to the next, but some you may be familiar with include a late bus, train or even plane commute to work; a presentation, important meeting or performance review in the workplace; a big test at school; or a dreaded encounter with someone you’d rather avoid.
The scientific term for this simple and quick tool is psychophysiological coherence: Ever heard of it? Keep reading.
“Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation,” according to Institute of HeartMath Research Director Dr. Rollin McCraty. “When the physiological coherence mode is driven by a positive emotional state, we call it psychophysiological coherence.”
Those who’ve practiced Heart-Focused Breathing through the years say they have experienced: a sense of being uplifted and alive; more peaceful and less rushed in their busy lives; a deeper heart connection within and with others.
HeartMath offers various tools and technology, including the Inner Balance® emWave2® and computer-based emWave® Pro for PC and Mac, that were scientifically designed to complement heart-focused breathing and other HeartMath techniques. Those who are new to HeartMath will find, however, that heart-focused breathing is a good way to get started on the path to increasing their energy, coherence and resilience.
For more information on how HeartMath can improve your health and change your life, visit the institute’s HeartMath Tools and click on any of tools, which are provided as a free resources of the HeartMath Institute. Select the Quick Coherence® Technique, which combines heart-focused breathing with other exercises such as emotion refocusing, for step-by-step instructions for this powerful tool.