30 Day Heartmath Meditation Challenge

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Anxiety, Meditation, Performance, Stress, Stress Management, Tools and Apps

Yesterday was the final day of my 30 day Heartmath meditation challenge and despite technically missing one day, I am declaring this experiment a massive success! I didn’t tell anyone about it beforehand, I just decided to do it.  The challenge was to meditate for 20 minutes per day for 30 consecutive days using the Heartmath EM Wave 2 or the Heart Math Inner Balance App for the Iphone. Heartmath has a suite of biofeedback devices that measure Heart Rate Variability (HRV) which is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats.  In general the greater an individual’s HRV the healthier they are. Below are actual snapshots of some of my meditation sessions. You can see where HRV is low with very jagged lines and where I am relaxed and happy my HRV resembles a sine wave.

Heart Math Inner Balance

Smooth sine wave showing good HRV.

 

Poor coherence demonstrated by jagged HRV.

Poor coherence demonstrated by jagged HRV.

HRV Research
There is a plethora of scientific research on HRV most notably showing significant health benefits for people who use biofeedback devices to monitor and
manipulate HRV. Benefits include lower stress, lower incidence of anxiety
and depression, greater intuitive abilities, and even benefits for individuals with brain injuries. On the opposite side, there is research that shows increased mortality among people with low HRV.

HRV in my Medical Practice
I recommend the Heartmath EMWave 2 and the Inner Balance app for patients in my San Francisco Acupuncture practice who are suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mood conditions on a consistent basis. My patients who use the device have reported significant improvements in their condition. I purchased an EM Wave 2 about a year ago and had used it on and off during that time. Although I enjoyed it I didn’t see any concrete benefits with intermittent use.   I was curious to see how the results might change by maintaining a consistent practice.

My Personal Results
I am a fairly experienced meditator having completed several intense meditation retreats ranging from 10 days to 6 weeks where I was meditating for ten plus hours per day.  I am able to enter into a more or less meditative state at will and I usually feel fairly relaxed both during and after a session. The difference with the Heartmath device is that it provided me direct feedback via a series of audible chimes as to my overall relaxation and HRV. There were many times when I thought I was relaxed but the device indicated otherwise.  That forced me to carefully tune into my body and feel where I was holding stress. I noticed that simply by letting consciousness flow to the areas of my body where I was holding stress spontaneous relaxation took place. I knew this because the chime on my EM Wave 2 increased which indicated a state of greater coherence and relaxation.

Over the last month I have noticed a greater awareness when I am experiencing physiological tension. I have found that I’ve been spontaneously slowing my breathing, focusing on my heart and asking my body to relax. I especially notice when I experience those difficult, frustrating moments of judgement of myself or others.  I have been moving into what I call a state of forgiveness where my body simply starts to relax, open and forgive! It has been quite a pleasant surprise. I also feel like focus has increased simply by being more aware of my physiological state.

I am definitely going to continue using my Heartmath device on a daily basis.  Please comment, share your meditation experiences or ask me any questions.

3 Comments

  1. Thx Jonah! This self research is inspiring. I’ve noticed those benefits as well, when I have the discipline to meditate regularly. Regarding HRV, I’m a bit confusded. So having a high variation in your heart rate is a good thing, right? Over how long of a period are we talking about? My intuition is that a steady heartbeat is a good thing, but this flies in the face of that. Or are we taling about a 24 hr period (one of the figures I saw on the wikiepedia article, which I could not follow very well.) If so, is the monitor connected to you that whole time? Or is it over the 20 minutes? So then if you have an even, slow heartbeat those 20 minutes that is a bad thing? thx agin for sharing your experiment and knowledge! -confused in sf 🙂

  2. John,
    Our heart rate is always changing. For instance my resting heart rate is about 50 BPM but if I’m up and walking around it might be in the 70’s and if I’m working out it would be in the 100-180 range. Heart Rate Variability measures the time between each of those beats. HRV has been found to be an accurate reflection of the functioning of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls heart rate, breath rate, peristalsis in the Gastro Intestinal tract and gland secretion (hormones). When we measure HRV and find a consistent rhythm (see graphic 1 with sine wave) to it the autonomic nervous system is considered to be functioning optimally. When there is an inconsistent rhythm of HRV like in graphic 2 the ANS is considered to be not be functioning optimally. The best thing about all of this is that when HRV is in that sine wave form it feels AMAZING. You just have to try it to believe it. Here is another link that does a pretty good job of explaining HRV.
    http://www.heartmath.org/templates/ihm/e-newsletter/publication/2011/summer/heartmath-definition.php

  3. Interesting. I remember trying the Heartmath products almost 10 years ago.. I’m sure the technology has come a long way. Thanks for the review. I’m going to look into it!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ross - . tnx for info!!

Leave a Reply