What is cardiac coherence?
Those who practice it on a daily basis will tell you without hesitation that it’s “a short breathing exercise that does you the world of good”. Naturally, just like meditation you won’t really feel the benefits when you first try it. It also requires a little training, a certain degree of concentration and a very peaceful environment. To begin with, let’s talk about the 3, 6, 5 rule. Three times a day, it involves engaging in deeper breathing, referred to as frequency 6 breathing, with just 6 inhalations/exhalations per minute, over a maximum period of 5 minutes. The idea is to make each movement – breathing in or breathing out – last 5 seconds. For a brain which is constantly bombarded with other stimuli, it can be difficult to remain focused on your breathing. Your Klokers watch can help you get started!
The aim of the exercise is to influence cardiac variability, which is the heart’s capacity to increase or reduce the speed at which it beats in order to adapt to the body’s environment at a particular moment. When everything is going well, when we are in peaceful and pleasant situations, the heart has been observed to reflect this positive feeling. It takes its time, accelerating and decelerating harmoniously and deeply: expressed in graphical form, the waves are deep and regular. Conversely, at negative moments in our lives - anger, fear, sadness, stress, etc. - its signal is incoherent and chaotic.
In 1983, the Russian physiologist Evgeny Vaschillo was the first to notice the beneficial influence of deep breathing upon the heart rate of cosmonauts and later of asthmatic children. By the early 1990s, his work had been adopted by several American researchers. A HeartMath Institute was even established on the other side of the Atlantic and numerous programmes were developed on the theme of stress management and emotional regulation. In France, the doctor, nutritionist and psychotherapist David O’Hare recently published a book on the subject - Coherence Cardiaque 365 published by Éditions Thierry Souccar -, and created a website www.coherenceinfo.com with a wealth of tips, workshops and applications to help people make a little time for themselves in different occupations.
In our hectic daily lives, often lived at a frantic pace from morning to evening in both our work and private lives, forcing ourselves to take time out for these brief moments of tranquillity and controlled breathing offers a way to regulate stress and anxiety, to encourage intuition and to take better decisions thanks to a stable and balanced emotional state. In the long-term, it is also said to improve the quality of sleep, or to reduce the risks of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, etc. To a certain extent, it means learning to listen to your body and your internal body clocks. To keep a few minutes aside for yourself at regular intervals throughout the day to avoid having the unpleasant impression that time is slipping away from us.
The benefits of cardiac coherence fade away between three and six hours after each exercise and so you are strongly recommended to practice it 3 times a day. Don’t delay. It’s something we can all do.
Text: Frédéric Martin-Bernard
Photo: Motoki Tonn Unsplash