Cardiac coherence: what is it and what are its effects on the body?
Cardiac coherence refers to the coordination between the brain and the heart.
Part of neurocardiology defends the idea that the heart is a very complex system, a sophisticated sensory organ that receives and processes information.
Our heart muscle is not limited to pumping blood, but also has tens of thousands of neurons that could be used to describe the heart as a set of small brains that, in coordination with our brain, induce a state of well-being.
The fact that brain and heart are in harmony is called cardiac coherence, a phenomenon that brings with it many benefits.This is a phenomenon that brings with it many benefits and can be achieved through the constant practice of breathing techniques. Let's find out what it is all about.
What is cardiac coherence?
Our emotions are not merely cerebral. Our body experiences them in various organs, but it is especially remarkable how our heart experiences them. In Western culture it has been said that we feel with our heart and, actually, neuroscience gives some support to this idea. For example, when we feel nervous, our heart beats harder. It also goes out of control when we are frightened, stressed or receive bad news.
We can define cardiac coherence as a state in which the heart's frequency is state in which the frequency of the heartbeat is regular, harmonic. The different waves of the heartbeat are synchronized, following a certain frequency, shape and amplitude, forming an orderly, predictable and repetitive pattern. The balance that our brain and heart can establish influences our emotional state, so that if we promote cardiac coherence we can improve our physical and psychological well-being.
Applied to the field of clinical psychology and neuroscience, cardiac coherence is also a technique that aims to coordinate breathing with heart rate. This technique was originally developed by the HeartMath Institute in California and aims to stabilize the breathing and heartbeat, reducing the frequency and inducing a state of calm.
As a technique, we can say that cardiac coherence aims to harmonize our physical, mental and emotional systems, a state of psychological efficiency in which the nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems function in a coordinated and calm manner. It is based on the idea that the heart has its own neural circuit, directly connected to the brain, and that by controlling our emotions we can control our physiology. and that by controlling our emotions we can control our physiology.
The relationship between brain and heart
The functions of the heart are not limited to pumping Blood to the different parts of our organism. This organ also has 40,000 neurons, a real nervous system of its own, which we could say act as "little brains" and also function as a small hormone factory. Adrenaline is secreted when it needs to function at maximum capacity, atriopeptin to regulate blood pressure. Oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, is also secreted.
These are all hormones that influence the functioning of the brain.Therefore, we could say that there is a heart-brain system, a system in which the brain's emotions influence and are influenced by cardiac rhythm and function. But this communication does not occur directly, but through an intermediary: the autonomic peripheral nervous system, which in turn is composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic subsystems.
The sympathetic is activated when we are in danger, causing the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline to facilitate fight or flight behaviors, accelerating the heart rate. On the other hand, the parasympathetic acts as a kind of brake, releasing neurotransmitters that induce a state of relaxation and calm by reducing the heart rate.
These two subsystems should be in balance, acting as brakes and accelerators when appropriate. However, if we are constantly stressed and tense, in which the sympathetic system remains activated for a long time and the parasympathetic system is turned off, it stops working effectively. This imbalance ends up affecting our heart, causing it to beat chaotically and irregularly, accelerating and slowing down.
Based on this, it is believed that negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, sadness or even the mere worries we may have throughout the day, affect our heart rate, and can generate physiological alterations. On the other hand, positive emotions such as joy favor a balance, facilitating cardiac coherence.facilitating cardiac coherence.
What are the benefits of cardiac coherence?
Regular practice of cardiac coherence techniques can bring us many benefits on a physical and psychological level:
1. Better emotional management
Applying this technique puts an end to physiological chaos, harmonizing heart and brain. Here the parasympathetic system is put into action.This results in the release of neurotransmitters that make us feel calmer, which translates into better emotional management and being able to deal more efficiently with difficult situations.
2. Improved cognitive abilities
Cardiac coherence allows the brain to function more efficiently. By abandoning worries and acquiring a better emotional management technique, the person can concentrate better, allowing ideas to flow in a more functional way. Therefore, it improves our attention span, concentration and information processing.
3. Stress and fatigue reduction
When we feel stress the sympathetic system is activated causing a series of reactions at a physiological level.. In turn, these provoke more anxiety and the appearance of worries when we see that our heartbeat has accelerated or we are organically unstable.
By practicing cardiac coherence techniques, it is possible to have better control of the physiological processes associated with stress and anxiety. In fact, it has been observed that after a month of practicing cardiac coherence, cortisol levels, a stress-related hormone, are significantly reduced.
4. Better sleep quality
Cardiac coherence generates a state of calm and tranquility, a relaxation that is a very good ally in combating insomnia. When we are relaxed and calm, we can fall asleep more easily and wake up more rested..
5. Strengthening the immune system
By practicing cardiac coherence, the immune system can be strengthened. It has been seen that people who manage to introduce this type of practice into their lives have increased levels of immunoglobulin A, cells that are the body's first line of defense against infectious agents. In fact, the high levels are maintained for about six months, high levels are maintained for about six hours after practicing cardiac coherence..
How to practice it?
Cardiac coherence can be achieved through practice. HeartMath has developed techniques that induce this phenomenon, allowing us to control the accelerations and decelerations of our heart through controlled and conscious breathing.
It consists of breathing in and out voluntarily and slowly, thus increasing the amplitude of the heart rate. If a synchronization between breathing and heart rate is achieved, the aforementioned coherence would be reached.
A good way to reduce stress is to be in a quiet environment, sitting with your feet flat on the floor, without crossing your hands or legs.without crossing your hands or legs:
- Breathe in through your nose for five seconds.
- Breathe out through the mouth for five seconds.
- Repeat the two previous steps six times per minute for five minutes.
It is recommended to do this breathing about three times a day.