Heart Coherence - The Perfect Breath

Heart Coherence  The Perfect Breath

Heart Coherence - The Perfect Breath

Heart coherence is a state where our body’s systems are in sync. At its essence, heart coherence is when our heart and brain are in harmony, as these two systems hold the power to affect all other systems in your body. In this state, the heart rate becomes more rhythmic and coherent, with smoother transitions between heartbeats and the heart rate variability (HRV) increases. Higher HRV indicates a more dynamic and responsive heart, which is associated with better overall health and resilience to stress.


The benefits of heart coherence are mind-blowing. Research has shown that individuals who regularly practice heart coherence techniques experience improvements in cardiovascular health, emotional well-being, stress resilience, and overall quality of life. Heart coherence can help regulate cortisol levels, blood pressure, and immune function all of which help to maintain homeostasis.

It all sounds wonderful but how do we actually get into a state of heart coherence? Let’s delve a little deeper to truly understand heart coherence so that you can maximise its power. 

The Heart

The heart is much more than a pumping muscle, your heart has an intrinsic nervous system that sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. The heart feels how you feel, even when you aren’t sure how you feel or even if you try to feel a different way; the heart, and therefore your body, knows. That's how you have “butterflies” in your belly when you are in love or need the loo when you feel nervous or even a sensation of pain or hollowness in your heart when you are grieving. In many cases, the body knows (or more correctly; your body thinks it knows) how we feel and initiates a full-body response accordingly. To change the body’s reaction to our experiences, emotions and feelings, to become more calm and less stressed, and to act rather than react, we need to take a look at our nervous system, as this is the internal communication system.

The Nervous System

The nervous system is a complex system that enables our body to pick up information from the external world as well as within our body. It does this through sensory receptors, some within our body (in muscles and connective tissues) and some from outside our body (sight, sounds, smell, ect.

The nervous system is what enables us to contract and relax our muscles, so we can move around. The nervous system plays a role in the rate of our breath, the heart rate, sleep and thinking, and so much more. 

In order for us to understand the nervous system we have divided it into different sections:

(1) First we have the central nervous system (CNS). This is the brain, the brain stem and the spinal cord. Here upper-motor neurons travels from the brain (the cortex which is the thin outer layer of the brain) to the spinal cord, where it synapses and a lower-motor neuron then exits. This is where the movement of skeletal muscles begins. This is also the part of our nervous system responsible for certain reflexes (preprogrammed, involuntary automatic responses to certain sensory inputs. Reflexes are our body’s safety mechanism).

(2 )Secondly we have our peripheral nervous system, which is in charge of all communication outside the CNS, (the brain, brain stem and spinal cord). Here the lower-motor neuron (originating from the spinal cord), travels to the muscle we want to contract or relax. Our peripheral nervous system is also in charge of picking up information from sensory receptors, both outside the body (sight, sound, smell, touch and more) and within the body (muscle location, temperature and more). So to get a better understanding of the peripheral nervous system, it is divided into two divisions: 

The Afferent/Sensory Division: Picking up sensory information and sending it to the central nervous system.

The Efferent/Motor Division: Sending information from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands.

So when we want to understand heart coherence, we need to look at the efferent division of the peripheral nervous system, as this is the part of our nervous system that has the potential to increase and decrease heart rate, increase and decrease body temperature (and so much more of course). The efferent division can be either voluntary (the somatic nervous system), this is when we are moving skeletal muscles and it can be involuntary (autonomic nervous system), this involves the cardiac muscle (the heart), smooth muscles (found in our respiratory system and our digestive system) and glands.

The autonomic nervous system has two modes, the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) and the sympathetic nervous system (the ready steady go-mode). The autonomic nervous system is involuntary, it is responsible for all the systems in our body that keep on going even when we are not aware of it, breath, heart rate, body temperature, blood flow, hormone secretion and digestion. So clever really, getting us into an optimal state for what we need to do. It is affected by light and the circadian rhythm too.

Ideally, we have a natural increased action in the sympathetic nervous system in the morning, rising and getting ready for work and action. At midday we tend to be in between the two modes and towards that afternoon we see a natural increase of activity on the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system increases hormones like cortisol and the parasympathetic nervous system increases the hormone melatonin.

Many of us find that we struggle to fall asleep at night or get up in the morning, this could be an indication of a nervous system imbalance (we might be working on computers into the late night, engaging with screens that disrupt the natural light. We might eat late, or intake caffeine). The good news is that we can do so much to aid better sleep and feeling more awake in the mornings. We can help ourselves to balance our nervous system by nudging ourselves into either the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) or the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).


Though the autonomic nervous system is involuntary, there is one clever way to get “in there” to edit and adjust which mode we are in: The breath. 

The Breath and The Respiratory System

The breath is both voluntary and involuntary. The breath happens when we are aware of it, and also when we are unaware of it. Whether to tend to the breath or not, we breathe. Luckily. As the SNS and PSN communicate using specific hormones, they also communicate, affect and determine the pattern of our breathing ( the breathing rate and ratio). The SNS makes us breathe faster, decreasing levels of CO2 and oxygen levels in cells, whereas the PSN gets us breathing slower, increasing the levels of CO2 and oxygen supply to the brain and muscles.

The breath is also voluntary as it controlled skeletal muscles, mainly by the diaphragm, a thin broad, umbrella-shaped skeletal muscle attaching to your ribcage. Skeletal muscles are controlled voluntary, meaning we can take control of it how we breath by moving our diaphragm. When we sing or speak, we breathe voluntarily. We also breathe voluntarily when we do breathing practices or breath meditation, deciding the rate and ratio of our inhales and exhales. And this is exactly how we get into an otherwise involuntary part of our body. By breathing in specific patterns we nudge our nervous system towards rest and digest or towards ready, steady go. So in the morning, we want to practice stronger and faster breaths and in the evening slower and calm breathing practices.

Heart coherence happens when we breathe 4 to 6 breaths per minute. This way of breathing gets us aware and awake yet, calm and grounded. We are neither sleepy nor stressed. This is a great breath to do before a presentation, exam or performance.

Heart Rate Variability (HVR)

During a state of heart coherence, our heart rate variability increases. A healthy heart is not a heart beating the same steady rhythm, rather, a healthy heart is a heart that can respond, change and adapt easily. When we measure our heart rate, we will get an average heartbeat per minute. In reality, every beat is a little different to the previous one. If you listen to a child's heart rate, you will notice instantly how their heart is slowing down and speeding up from beat to beat. This is a healthy and strong heart. When we inhale, our heart rate increases, and when we exhale, our heart rate decreases. This measurement of the heart is called heart rate variability (HRV). HVR refers to the variation in the time intervals between consecutive heartbeats. It is a measure of the flexibility and adaptability of the cardiovascular system. Higher HRV indicates a more dynamic and responsive heart rate, which is associated with better overall health and resilience to stress. 

By changing how we breathe for a period of time we create both immediate changes and permanent changes in the breath that even can be traced to when the breath returns to become automatic again. It is so powerful to have a breath practice, even this short and simple one that I’ll guide you through will be able to create lasting benefits. 

We can’t press a button to slow down our heart rate, we can’t slow down or speed up our metabolism, or change our blood pressure in an instant, but we can choose how we breathe and because the breath is a part of the autonomic nervous system, by affecting the breath, we can actually affect our heart rate, blood pressure, PH-levels, blood circulations and metabolism and cardiac health, and when breathing in a specific rhythm, we create a state called heart coherence. 

The way we breathe automatically is determined by how we trained our breath in the past. Training it means, how we breathe most often. As our body and brain love repetitions and the known, we tend to breathe the way we breathe most often, which for many of us is shallow and fast. 

YOU BREATH MASTERCLASS ADN 30-DAY CHALLENGE

I have been so fascinated by the breath. And rarely, the breath is thoroughly explained. There are many misconception about the breath and breathing practices. Our Breath Masterclass will give you all the insights you need to understand and to train your breath, so that you breathe efficiently and nudging yourself into the right mode for the activity you want to do. 

Funny enough, breathing practices has very little to do with increasing lungs capacity or oxygen levels, as most of us walk about with 80-90% lung capacity and 97% oxygen levels. Pranayama and breath practices are all about changing CO2 levels.

The masterclass will give you the anatomy, physiology and biomechanics of our respiratory system. We will understand how we breath and what we breath. We will look at the history of breathing practices and you will learn simple, useful and effective ways to immediately change your state of mind, blood PH levels, PSN and SNS activation. Join the masterclass and the 30-Day breathing challenge. A science-backed approach to the breath.

Check out our guided heart coherence meditation as well, a powerful meditation to change your state of mind in 5 minutes, guided along the way by breath coach Mel Fisher.