Heart Rate Variability Training
“My heart is a muscle and it pumps blood like a big old black steam train…”
Lyric extract from Black Stick by The Cruel Sea
Our heart is just a 300 gram muscle which pumps over 70 litres of blood per minute without interruption for 70 to 80 years. It beats 100,000 times per day and approximately 40 million beats per year, which equates to around 3 billion pulses per lifetime. Looked at biologically, the heart is nothing short of miraculous!
The heart is, a complex, sensory organ with its own functional “heart brain” that communicates with and influences the brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. Research has shown that these influences profoundly affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs. Hence, anger, anxiety and worry significantly increase the risk of heart disease, including sudden cardiac arrest or death.
At Learning Discoveries Psychological Services, we utilise a form of biofeedback that directly measures and trains autonomic balance. This technique is known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training and at the clinic we have three forms of HRV training: HeartMath®, Heart Tuner Pro and Physiolab.
Training with heart rate variability is non-invasive and relatively easy, because heart rate is closely aligned to respiration and therefore, breath work is a key feature of the training. Once a person is trained to breathe in a specific pattern and can see the immediate effects of proper breathing on their heart rate, they realise the effect that breathing has not just on the heart but, on other physiological systems. This provides a dynamic window into autonomic functioning and is a useful outcome measure of behavioural interventions for negative emotions. Increasing the coherence, (ordered and harmonious function) of the heart and breath brings these systems into phase with each other, thereby reducing stress and enhancing cognition and emotional wellbeing.
With consistent practice, coherent heart rhythms can be achieved.