Faced with the prevalence of anxiety disorders , more and more French people are now turning to alternative solutions. Among the emerging and effective methods, one is gradually standing out: cardiac coherence. This stress management technique, developed by the HeartMath Institute, offers a simple but powerful approach to improving mental and physical balance . What is it exactly? How is it practiced?
What is cardiac coherence?
Cardiac coherence is a technique based on the re-education of the autonomic nervous system through the improvement of heart rate variability ( HRV). HRV measures the variations in time between two heartbeats, thus reflecting the flexibility of the autonomic nervous system. By practicing cardiac coherence, we seek to obtain a regular and harmonious heart rhythm, promoting better stress tolerance . To achieve this state of coherence, HRV must be modulated by breathing. This is a phenomenon called “respiratory sinus arrhythmia”.
On the physiological level
The amount of variation in heart rate, or “sinus variability,” is a crucial indicator of physical and mental health. In times of stress, this variability decreases, creating a “chaotic” state. The rhythm then becomes irregular. Cardiac coherence exercises act on the tone of the vagus nerve, thus improving heart rate variability to achieve an ideal state of balance. The objective is to synchronize breathing with the heartbeat.
Our body is regulated by two nervous systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic system prepares the body to respond to stress or emergencies, altering heart rate and the force of heart contractions. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system promotes slowing down the body to save energy, slowing the heart rate. Cardiac coherence balances these two systems by modulating the physiological response of the autonomic nervous system during stress. Breathing, unlike other reflexes, can be controlled. When inhaling, the heart rate speeds up, while it slows down when exhaling, creating heart rate variability.
How to practice cardiac coherence?
The practice of cardiac coherence has the advantage of being accessible. Indeed, it is a simple method that can be done in just a few minutes. Here are the basic steps to get started:
- Find a quiet place. It is indeed important to choose a quiet place where it is possible to relax. Places without distractions or major nuisances are therefore preferred.
- Adopt a comfortable posture. To do this, it is possible to lie down or sit while keeping your back straight.
- Concentrate on your breathing. Start by breathing deeply and slowly, mentally counting to six as you inhale and exhale.
- Use a biofeedback tool. It is in fact possible to use a specialized device or a smartphone application which will help visualize the heart rate and synchronize breathing.
The basic protocol is to slow breathing to approximately 6 cycles per minute. More advanced protocols exist. It is advisable to practice cardiac coherence for 10 to 20 minutes a day. Indeed, dedicating a short period of time each day to this practice generally allows you to reap the benefits.
Benefits of cardiac coherence
Cardiac coherence is emerging as a simple and quick method to manage stress , without side effects. The notable benefits mainly correspond to a significant reduction in anxiety.
It is also known that stress has a notable impact on overall health as well as immunity. For example, certain phenomena such as asthma attacks can be caused by stress. Cardiac coherence can therefore contribute to preserving general health.
However, cardiac coherence is not the only method for reducing stress and anxiety. Indeed, there are also plant-based treatments that can significantly combat these inconveniences. Available in the form of infusion , food supplement or even macerate , these products help to obtain optimal mental and physical balance.
In short, cardiac coherence is much more than a simple stress management technique. It is a holistic approach to mental and physical health, based on a deep understanding of the physiology of the heart and breathing. By integrating this practice into a daily routine, it is possible to benefit from the many benefits it offers for physical and psychological balance. Whether to reduce stress, improve heart health or promote mental serenity, cardiac coherence can be a powerful ally in the quest for well-being.
Respiratory health France. (May 10, 2023). Everything you need to know about cardiac coherence .
Serena Aguirre. (2021). Interest in the practice of cardiac coherence breathing in the treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders: review of the literature . Human medicine and pathology. ffdumas-03463783f