2 minutes to (re)establish a state of coherence

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In addition to breathing rhythmically and smoothly, consciously focusing on physical sensations or on a body part has also been noted to clear our mind and shift the focus away from the flow of emotions, thoughts, and worries you might be experiencing. Many breathing techniques, which seem to have the favor of scientists and researchers lately, follow more or less the same lines and favor a state of presence and serenity. What follows is a description of two of these methods that you can use depending on your needs and your constraints.

In both cases, our in-field experience shows that two minutes of regular smooth breathing are enough to re-establish Heart Rate Variability (or HRV, measuring the change in interval between each heartbeat) coherence, and therefore facilitate entering and consolidating a Flow state.

 

Exercise 1: Breathing through the belly

This first exercise of deep abdominal breathing concentrate on the belly and allows to completely fill your lungs with oxygen, particularly the lower lobes where there is increased blood flow and more efficient gas exchanges. This technique requires you to focus on your stomach and guts and is actually thought to stimulate them into releasing higher levels of serotonin which is considered as the ‘happiness hormone’.

This exercise can be done at any time of the day and is particularly useful to start the day with energy and to promote good sleep at the end of the day. You can also perform it standing, seated, or lying down, as long as you feel stability through your posture:
• Focus on your breathing, especially on the sensations in your belly;
• Give your breathing a steady and harmonious rhythm by pushing as much air as possible towards your belly at the inspiration;
• Guide yourself by putting your hand on your stomach if needed, feeling that it swells on inspiration and deflates when exhaling;
• Favor an uncontrolled expiration and longer than inspiration, allowing the lungs to empty completely and the muscles to relax;
• Continue this exercise for at least two minutes each time.

Through conscious and rhythmic practice, abdominal breathing has been known to regulate the autonomous system, slowing down the orthosympathetic system and soliciting the parasympathetic system which is responsible for ‘rest and recover’ functions such as digestion and immunity. If you ever watched a baby breathing, you might understand that this type of breathing is considered as natural by the body. Beyond the scientific and physiological aspect, this technique has been highly praised by different spiritual practices for centuries.

 

Exercise 2: Breathing through the heart

This other breathing exercise puts the focus on the heart. If effects are similar to those of abdominal breathing, the difference resides here on leveraging HRV and the electromagnetic field created by the heart to achieve coherent breathing. This technique highlights the synchronization of heart rate cycle with breathing cycles to achieve a coherent and stable HRV (as opposed to a chaotic HRV).

The medical field has been interested in HRV for a longer period, and recent advances shed light on some of its aspects mainly in relationship with cerebral brain functioning, and clear lucid thinking, but also with energy levels and overall health. As a matter of fact, according to some studies, HRV is a marker of biological aging and a highly chaotic or abnormally low HRV might be an indicator for health issues and/or for a premature death risk. All the more reason to be more attention to the following exercise!
• Focus on your breathing, especially on the sensations in your chest and on your heart beat (guide yourself with your hand on your heart if needed);
• Give your breathing a steady and harmonious rhythm by filling your lungs with air at the inspiration and marking a small pause before exhaling;
• Focus on a pleasant emotion, feeling, or sensation and explore it, amplify it;
• Visualize your heart been nourished by air and pumping energy through your body;
• Continue this exercise for at least two minutes each time.

Here again, rhythmic and smooth breathing is key. Thanks to coherent HRV and to the powerful electromagnetic field of the heart, this technique is also thought to influence the functions of all other systems by synchronizing them and aligning their performance. Putting the accent on the heart, which is believed to inhibit cortisol and sympathetic system responses and to elicit pleasant Emotions through the secretion of oxytocin, “the hormone of attachment”. Isn’t the heart the universal metaphor for pleasant emotions of peace and love? It might not be surprising that the heart is considered by many civilizations as a source of wisdom and intelligence when we know that this organ possess its own intrinsic nervous system, resembling the brain’s!

To conclude…
If two minutes of regular, conscious, and smooth breathing are enough to re-establish a state of coherence, regular practice remains key to make it automatic.
What are you waiting for to engage in it? With time, do not hesitate to vary the exercises and find the formula which is most convenient to you ;-)

Do you want to know more about the impacts of breathing and coherence on yourself as individual, but also on your teams at work?