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  • Writer's pictureAlessandra Cossu

What is cardiac coherence?

Cardiac coherence is a personal practice of stress and emotion management that has many benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. Cardiac coherence allows you to learn to control your breathing in order to regulate your stress and anxiety. This simple technique would also reduce depression and blood pressure. This is a particular state of cardiac variability (the heart's ability to speed up or slow down to adapt to its environment) and a real physiological technique for controlling stress.

It can be obtained in several ways, but cardiac resonance (cardiac coherence obtained by breathing and the 365 rule) is the quickest and simplest: 3 times a day, 6 breaths per minute and for 5 minutes. Possessing nearly 40,000 neurons as well as a complex and dense network of neurotransmitters, the heart communicates directly with the brain. By influencing our heart rate through breathing exercises, we can send positive messages to the brain.

How it works?

The body is governed by two major nervous systems, the somatic system (voluntary acts) and the autonomic system (automatic regulation). The heart actively participates in the autonomic nervous system of which it plays an essential function allowing adaptation to environmental changes. Cardiac variability refers to the variability of heart rate (pulse), or the ability of the heart to speed up and slow down.

The importance of this is measured by its amplitude. The higher the amplitude, the greater the state of health balance.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into two subsystems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

  • The sympathetic triggers all the actions necessary for flight or fight, but also the acceleration of the heart and respiratory rate as well as the dilation of the pupils or the inhibition of digestion.

  • The parasympathetic promotes recovery, relaxation, rest and repair.

Health being the balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. However, inhalation stimulates the sympathetic while exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic. Breathing being controlled by the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system, it is therefore possible to control the autonomic nervous system by this route.

Breathing that balances: Five seconds on inhalation, five seconds on exhalation, or six breaths per minute. When you breathe six times per minute, you are almost certain to achieve this steady state of cardiac coherence. It is not the only method, but it is the simplest, because it is a respiratory frequency common to all, a physiological constant specific to human beings.

With this frequency of 6 breaths per minute, we arrive at a respiratory frequency of 0.1 Hertz which seems to be a resonance frequency of many biorhythms (the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems also have this frequency). The benefits of cardiac coherence

Practicing cardiac coherence has many benefits, both in the short term and in the long term.

Immediate effects

  • Increased amplitude of cardiac variability

  • Rounding and regularity of the curve

  • Appeasement

Effects over a four-hour average:

  • Decrease in cortisol, the main defense hormone secreted during stress.

  • Increase in DHEA, a rejuvenating hormone that slows down aging.

  • Increase in salivary IgA which participates in immune defense.

  • Increase in oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that promotes attachment (also called the “love hormone”).

  • Increase in atrial natriuretic factor, a hormone secreted by the heart and which acts on high blood pressure.

  • Increase in alpha waves which promote memory, learning, but also communication and coordination.

  • Favorable action on many neurotransmitters (hormones that convey emotions) including dopamine (pleasure) and serotonin (prevention of depression and anxiety).

Long-term effects (after around ten days):

  • Reduction in high blood pressure

  • Reduced cardiovascular risk

  • Regulation of sugar levels

  • Reduction of abdominal perimeter

  • Better recovery

  • Improved concentration and memorization

  • Reduction in attention disorders and hyperactivity

  • Better pain tolerance

  • Improvement of asthmatic disease

  • Improvement of inflammatory diseases

Cardiac coherence in practice

3 times a day, 6 breaths per minute and 5 minutes to obtain results, because these three figures have a physiological reason and are established in numerous studies. This is the famous 365. 3 times a day because the beneficial effects of the practice only last for a few hours (3 to 6 hours). An average duration of 4 hours between each practice is therefore recommended.

The main effect of cardiac coherence is the balancing and modulation of the stress hormone cortisol. The most important session is that of getting up when the secretion of cortisol is the greatest. Perform the second session four hours later to alleviate the events that occurred in the morning and prepare for the meal and digestion. The third session, in the middle or late afternoon, is as important as the morning session, because it prepares you for the evening.

6 breaths per minute because it is breathing at the resonance frequency of the heart/lung systems common to the human species and which allows an optimal increase in the amplitude of cardiac variability.

5 seconds on inhalation and 5 seconds on exhaling, taking an abdominal inhalation through the nose and exhaling through the mouth as if blowing through a straw.

Posture: sitting position, straight back is recommended because cardiac coherence does not work well in the lying position for anatomical and physiological reasons.


Some historical elements

Born in the United States around fifteen years ago, the concept of cardiac coherence comes from medical research, neuroscience and neurocardiology and their development. Its impact on stress management was studied and highlighted by the HeartMath institute and was introduced in France by doctors David Servan Schreiber and David O'Hare. Cardiac coherence is a simple, free tool, without contraindications and available to everyone. It is your physical and mental health passport to lasting well-being. It must, like brushing your teeth, be part of an overall healthy lifestyle and a certain routine, because its effectiveness depends on its regularity.

Breathing consistently brings you to live in the present moment.

Everyone finds five minutes three times a day.

Take care of yourself !

Good practice everyone.

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