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Coherence Breathing for Health

Research has shown that some breathing techniques are effective against anxiety, insomnia, stress, and other conditions. One such breathing technique is known as coherence breathing. Coherence breathing involves taking long, slow breaths at a rate of 5-6 breaths per minute. It affects both physiological (parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological (as a distraction technique) factors. As

Research has shown that some breathing techniques are effective against anxiety, insomnia, stress, and other conditions. One such breathing technique is known as coherence breathing. Coherence breathing involves taking long, slow breaths at a rate of 5-6 breaths per minute. It affects both physiological (parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological (as a distraction technique) factors. As most popular mindfulness techniques for stress reduction rely on breathing techniques, coherence breathing is a simple and safe technique for almost anyone to use.

While it is common knowledge that emotions greatly influence the body, few people realize that the opposite is also true. Simply put, the body can influence one’s emotional state. For example, if a person is nervous or afraid, their heart and breathing rates begin to increase. They might sweat or even get an upset stomach. This is due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our body’s response to stress. So, in this example, our body responds to the stress our brain’s perceived.

Conversely, if we begin with a psychological response such as a feeling of sadness, we might somewhat alleviate negative feelings just by smiling. In this case, the physical act of smiling can produce a response by the brain to allow us to feel more positive emotions. So, in essence, the mind and the body are connected, and this relationship goes in both directions.

Cardiac coherence is a variation of coherence breathing whereby biofeedback is used to help coordinate the heart rate with slow, steady breathing. This method was based on the idea that the vagus nerve controls and is associated with many organs. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, the heart rate slows, and the body perceives calmness and relaxes. This adjustment in heart rate can help reduce feelings of anxiety. By using biofeedback technology, the patient is better able to sync breathing with their heart rate as they can observe their heart rate on a screen. Though it is beneficial to use technology to assist with this synchronization, it is not necessary, as practicing breath control regularly can produce similar results.

Breathing exercises such as coherence breathing and cardiac coherence can be practiced whenever a person feels anxious or is facing a stressful situation or but are best practiced on a regular basis. A common method advocated by psychotherapists is the 365 method. It proposes to perform breath work three times per day, for six cycles (5 seconds inhalation and 5 seconds exhalation) for 5 minutes. This should be done 365 days per year.

Though more study is necessary, current research has shown there is a connection between the body and the mind and that the effect they have on each other runs both ways. In an effort to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression, many people use controlled breathing techniques to reduce or prevent symptoms of a negative emotional state. Coherence breathing is one such technique that has been shown to be effective in treating these symptoms. You don’t have to be an expert; just willing to spend a few minutes each day to get started on a path to calmness and better stress management.

*Coherence Breathing is a registered trademark of Coherence LLC. Coherence breathing in this article refers to the technique, not the specific protocol.