HeartMath is a technique using breathing, heart centering and positive emotion to diffuse stress. It takes the essence of many well-trusted stress management and personal development techniques and weaves the, into a coherent, simple package. It encompassss positive thinking, gratitude, the heart chakra, and mindfulness. It also reminds me of The Quieting Reflex developed by Dr. Charles Stroebel.
The science is that the autonomic nervous system has two strands: the sympathetic which revs you up and also provides the stress response; and the parasympathetic which calms you down. Breathing in activates the sympathetic nervous system; breathing out the parasympathetic. (More info.) We – check yourself at this moment – often hold our breath or breathe shallowly, which can lead to panic attacks, stress and anxiety. No wonder, when upset, we are told to take a deep breath!
Coherent, easy breathing can do nothing but help and is the basis of most stress management programs and something I have taught my wellness classes for years.
So, how to do it. HeartMath has an expensive Em-Wave computerrogram that also monitors your heart wave and shows how relaxed you are. You can buy this or find a HeartMath practitioner. I am being taught on the equipment as an adjunct to my neurofeedback. It is offered free alongside.
What I have found is that the visual for the program, which you can adjust to your own speed, is very easy to get in sync with. You readily establish a regular breathing pattern. What’s more, the visual is easy to remember – I find that when stressed or waiting idly (like at a traffic light) it is very easy to remember the picture of the ball rolling up and down hills, and to breathe in rhythm with it.
You can buy a simple program with just the visual and no heart rate feedback from HeartMath for $19.99. http://store.heartmath.org/adult-learning-programs/coherence-coach-cd. I have downloaded it to my computer and find it very soothing. I just wish there were an iPhone app. (I have no financial connection with HeartMath or any product I discuss.)
The second part of HeartMath is to visualize breathing through your heart and hold a positive feeling. I use our kitten curling up on my chest, purring. This ties in with all the research on gratitude, positive thinking etc. Also work with the heart chakra.
A very good guide to using HeartMath is Transforming Anxiety: the HeartMath Solution for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety and Creating Serenity by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman. It has good on-the-spot breathing techniques that can be used any time, not just for anxiety.
I also found techniques on the HeartMath site:
Quick Coherence Technique (free) – a simple explanation of the technique, audio and text
Quick Stress Technique (free) – audio or PDF
Pain Mangement – PDF
Insomnia – PDF
High blood pressure – PDF
My husband is going to try HeartMath for both high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. I will report the results.
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