Heartmath, Coherence and HRV’
HeartMath® is a scientifically validated system of techniques and technologies that will help you to transform your stress, build your resilience and boost your performance.
HeartMath is easy to learn and the simple but powerful techniques can be used “in the moment”, eyes open, by anyone at anytime.
HeartMath was founded by Doc Childre in 1991 to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balanced alignment – a state often referred to as “The Zone”, ‘in Flow’ or Coherence.
Coherence: A State of Optimal Function.
Heartmath describe Coherence as the process whereby sustained positive emotions facilitate a wholebody shift in functioning at all levels, marked by a distinct change in heart rhythm different
from relaxation. This generates increased synchronisation, harmony and efficiency in the interactions between brain, heart, and body.
Science and Research.
The Institute of HeartMath’s research has shown that generating sustained positive emotions facilitates a body-wide shift to a specific, scientifically measurable state. This state is termed psychophysiological coherence, because it is characterized by increased order and harmony in both our psychological (mental and emotional) and physiological (bodily) processes. Psychophysiological coherence is the state of optimal function. Research shows when we activate this state, our physiological systems function more efficiently, we experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive function. Simply stated, our body and brain work better, we feel better, and we perform better.
Physiologically, the coherence state is marked by the development of a smooth, sine-wavelike pattern in the heart-rate variability (HRV) trace. This characteristic pattern, called heart rhythm coherence, is the primary indicator of the psychophysiological coherence state, and is what the Heartmath EmWave technology measures and quantifies.
A number of important physiological changes occur during coherence. The two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) synchronise with one another, and there is an overall shift in autonomic balance towards increased parasympathetic activity. There is also increased physiological entrainment – a number of different bodily systems synchronise to the rhythm generated by the heart (see image below). Finally, there is increased synchronisation between the activity of the heart and brain.
The Difference Between Coherence and Relaxation
Coherence is not relaxation. An important point is that the state of coherence is both psychologically and physiologically distinct from the state achieved through most techniques for relaxation. As the physiological level, relaxation is characterised by an overall reduction in autonomic outflow (resulting in lower HRV) and a shift in ANS balance towards increased parasympathetic activity. Coherence is also associated with a relative increase in parasympathetic activity, thus encompassing a key element of the relaxation response, but is physiologically distinct from relaxation in that the system oscillates at its natural resonant frequency and there is increased harmony and synchronisation in nervous system and heart-brain dynamics. This important difference between the two states is reflected most clearly in their respective HRV power spectra (see image below). Furthermore, unlike relaxation, the coherence state does not necessarily involve a lowering of heartrate, or a change in the amount of HRV, but rather is primarily marked by a change in the heart rhythm pattern.