Isn’t HeartMath just about relaxation and breathing techniques?
Written by HeartMath
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 14:46
Press Room -
While relaxation and breathing techniques are valuable methods to achieve greater balance and calm, HeartMath’s approach goes considerably further. Our techniques do incorporate the physiological benefits of relaxation and many of the HeartMath techniques also include a step in which you are instructed to do heart-focused breathing. However, use of the HeartMath emotional shifting techniques and technologies lead to a very different physiological and psychological state than relaxation or rhythmic breathing. We call this state coherence. This emotional shift is a key element of the techniques’ effectiveness and produces a wider array of benefits than those typically achieved through breathing alone. These include deeper perceptual and emotional changes, increased access to intuition and creativity, improvements in cognitive performance, and favorable changes in hormonal balance.
Many individuals believe that if they could just learn to relax then they would be healthier and happier. Relaxation and breathing techniques are important and beneficial in that they calm the system and temporarily draw attention away from distressing feelings and reduce physiological arousal. In fact, breathing at the appropriate rhythm facilitates an emotional shift and for this reason, heart focused breathing is the first step in a number of the emotional refocusing and restructuring techniques developed at HeartMath. While the breathing step is helpful for calming, sustaining shifts in engrained attitudes and strong emotions takes much more than that. This is why we focus on teaching people how to increasingly shift the significance out of negative emotions and build replacement attitudes. This is done by learning to engage the power of the heart’s intent. The important part of the process is learning how to shift attention to the heart and activate a positive feeling or attitude replacement. That’s why the HeartMath techniques are designed to help people shift the feelings, not just the thoughts. Once the feelings shift, then the thoughts automatically become more positive.
Another important distinction is this: the majority of relaxation practices are essentially disassociation techniques. Scientifically speaking these disassociated states are characterized by an overall reduction in autonomic outflow which results in a state specific reduction in heart rate variability and a shift in autonomic nervous system balance towards increased parasympathetic activity (the relaxation response). In other words, disassociating calms you down. While the ability to relax is an important skill, relaxation typically decreases performance.
By contrast, the HeartMath techniques focus on maintaining internal awareness and self-activated positive emotional shifts which leads to increased coherence. Coherence is associated with an energetic calm and increases cognitive performance – i.e.: improved memory, discrimination, focus, reaction times, etc. This is why Olympic athletes, medical professionals, soldiers, police officers and business executives find our approach beneficial. Their professions demand that they stay attentive and energized yet balanced and calm.