Apologies, I've been away delivering training, then took a break over the weekend.
Katolotus, I'll start with your questions:
1. What's the best position (if any) to do the session in. I'm currently lying down for all my session.
2. Is it beneficial to do it with music in the background or in quiet surroundings.
3. Does it matter when you do it. I do one on waking (within 10mins) and right before sleeping (hence doing it lying down in bed).
4. Having the occasional dry throat, yawn, cough which screws up my coherence. Any thoughts on that?
1. In my opinion, any position is ok to practice in. Remember, what you're actually doing is practicing to achieve Coherence... to "get into the Zone". Coherence isn't dependent on any particular body position, but rather a state as we've discussed before. I practice while lying down, sitting, walking, driving my car, delivering presentations, coaching, training, etc. Here are two thoughts for you to consider though.... 1) It would serve you better not to associate that feeling of Coherence just with lying down - remember, we can become anchored to states (more below under "music"). Lying down can also lean more easily towards Parasympathetic activity associated with feeling relaxed. 2) Because you're lying down, you might easily fall asleep.. sometimes its a good thing and sometimes not.
2. Music is a wonderful addition that can enhance your practice. Ideally the music should be instrumental and something that really inspires or moves you... something you really like. Music with words or lyrics will engage your mind and make it more difficult to keep your focus on your heart, your breathing and a positive emotion. I use Gary Malkin's "Letting Yourself Be Loved" (instrumental) and The Life of Pi Soundtrack. "Letting Yourself Be Loved" is just under 6 minutes, so I know how much time has passed when that track is finished, and then I can mark out the rest of my session with The Life of Pi, and never concern myself with how long my session has been. Listening to music allows you to get into that feeling state of psychophysiological coherence more easily, because music is by nature emotive. Finally, using the same tracks for all your sessions sets up a natural anchor... you begin to associate that feeling of being in the Zone with the specific tracks, and you achieve coherence quicker. With Inner Balance Trainer you can add music through the app and set the volume independently of the coherence audio cues. By the way, you can also use the coherence audio cues (the pinging), as a means to guide you in your session if you decide to practice with your eyes closed, especially good for longer sessions.*
3. Just after you've woken up is an excellent time to practice, as it sets the mood for the rest of the day. It's good to catch yourself in that quiet mind before you start thinking about your day and all you have to do. By practicing and achieving Coherence right from the start you are sending a clearer signal to your mind and body, and you'll stay in the flow longer. Before you go to sleep at night is also very good, as it resets and quietens your mind and body again, aiding in a more restful and deeper sleep. You can also "top up" any time during the day with shorter sessions if you like, but that ten or twenty minutes in the morning and evening will bring great benefits. In my own experience, when I first started with HeartMath years ago, I overcame depression through twice daily practice every day, within two weeks!
4. Don't worry about those coughs, yawns, sneezes etc. You might "lose" Coherence momentarily, but it's your ability to shift back again quickly and then sustain that that counts, and ultimately you're developing resilience. You could think of those little "bumps" metaphorically... We can't take them away or get rid of them, just like we can't get rid of stress, but we can learn to manage it all.
* Practice with your eyes open in some sessions and closed in others, interchanging whenever you feel like it.
Eveland, a couple of tips for you:
Once you have the ear sensor securely attached and have navigated to the start of the session, begin by following the breathing pacer for a couple of breaths. Note if you're able to keep in sync with the breathing pacer, and adjust accordingly for your next session by changing the breathing rate in the settings. Ideally you're aiming at 5 seconds inhalation and 5 seconds exhalation.
Following the breathing pacer should be enough to get you into high Coherence (green) on the first challenge level. No matter how long your session is, you want to be able to sustain that "green" for as long as possibly continuously (for example, 3 out of 5 minutes). The longer the session the more challenging it will be to do so (19 out of a 20 minute session). You're aiming for 80% to 90% medium (blue) to high (green) Coherence during your sessions, and when you start doing that more and more, then proceed to challenge level two and higher.
There is also an on-screen "coach" which will guide you throughout your session, telling you to shift your attention, focus on your heart, focus on a positive feeling etc.
Inner Balance Trainer isn't just about the breathing, but more importantly, its about the feeling. You access the feeling by first shifting your attention away from the mind's busy activity towards your heart, and keeping the attention there while still breathing deeply and rhythmically, remember a time, place, person, or event that you felt a positive heart-felt feeling for. Those feelings could be anything from bliss, peace, ease, joy, contentment, love, appreciation, passion, excitement, entusiasm etc. Once you have that feeling, then "lock it in" and keep your attention on feeling it for as long as possible, while continuing that heart-focused breathing.
When I first practiced this I actually went into panic. My coach said for me to go into appreciation, and all of a sudden I realised that although I considered myself to be a "happy-go-lucky" person, I couldn't think of anything that I sincerely appreciated in my life at the time. I thought a bit and remembered a photo of me taken in Kosan Road in Bangkok, the first time I was there... backpack on my back surrounded by all the sights and sounds and smells... a moment frozen in time. I was in awe! I focused on that photo and remembered what I was feeling at the time... continuing the heart-focused breathing. That image has now become my "default" memory for appreciation... a memory that can't be corrupted, doesn't contain any additional emotional baggage or associations, and always takes me straight back into appreciation. However, if I had to remember the rest of my trip in Thailand I'd go into an incoherent state, as I would remember the motorbike accident I had there and the scars I still have on my knee. In other words, if I lost focus of that moment of appreciation, and allowed my mind to wander, I could go into stress.
So it's important to find a memory or thought that is uncontaminated with anything else but a positive heart-felt emotion. Why heart-felt? Because our values, those things most important to us, come from the heart, and lie at the core of who we are. Our core values are those things that we won't compromise on, and if we do, we find ourselves in some stressful situation.
Inner Balance Trainer provides a mechanism for us to get in touch with these values more readily, and manage the stress that might arise when we're not in alignment with those core values. In fact, through the use of the various tools in the HeartMath "toolbox", we can create a strategy with practical and easy steps that we can take to change at a deep level, achieve our goals, improve our relationships, and live a more fulfilling life.
I trust this helps a bit
Director HeartMath South Africa, Lead Trainer and Licensed 1:1 Provider & Coach
Relationships | Results | Resilience
A Change of Heart Changes Everything
â€œEvery famous athlete, every famous performer, has somebody who is a coach. Somebody who can watch what theyâ€™re doing and say â€˜Is that what you really meant? Did you really do that thing?â€™â€¦ give them perspective. The one thing that people are not good at, is seeing themselves as others see them. A coach really really helps.â€ â€“ Eric Schmidt â€“ Google CEO
thanks very much. this is useful.
i've been doing my practice in the same place at the same times every day and usually with eyes closed. going to try mixing it up at your recommendation, especially body position.
my initial experience is similar to what you outlined - the abstract "happy thoughts" were difficult to achieve until i started going to a default photo in my mind. on new year's eve, my son went to bed and my daughters were trying to stay up until midnight. eventually, a little short of midnight, my oldest daughter got very close to me and my other daughter immediately followed. soon the 3 of us were all sleeping snuggled together. my wife took a photo and shared it with a caption to the effect of how hard the 3 of us tried to make it to the new year awake and fell just short and i see that image every time i'm trying to get to a heartfelt emotional high. it's the most effective thing i've found in this practice. i've been trying to think of other things to get that response and cycle in lots of images of vacations, times with wife and kids, successful basketball games or work days, but seem to always come back to that one picture of that one night as the failsafe.
thanks, too, for your #4 reinforcement about being ok to lose measured coherence and that the important thing is to recover and build resilience. that's appealing and helpful.
i wonder a little about trying to take your focus to your heart and emotion while doing a dangerous activity that requires focus itself like operating a motor vehicle. otherwise, very glad to hear your advice.
That's the perfect image to visualize and come back to as your "default emotional high". I found for myself that soon after I began practicing and associating that feeling of appreciation to being in Thailand, I found more things to appreciate in my life.
It's a wonderful process to engage with actively and intentionally, this system called the Reticular Activating System... which basically regulates arousal and tells our brain to look out for what's important to us. Ever heard the old adage "what you focus on multiplies"?... that's the RAS at work. What you focus on you get. So when you're spending quality time immersed in a positive emotion you're telling yourself that this state is important, and you start to "look around" for more of it. Evolution, or grand design, however you wish to view it, did us a huge favour in creating us this way... the RAS is part of our limbic (emotional) brain and kept us primed for survival.. so why not work with it from the reverse of that point of view?
Eventually my practice has led me to feeling appreciation for my heart beating in this moment... which keeps me very centered and in-the-moment, present awareness. And on those days that I struggle to get into that zone, I return to my own "default emotional high" of being in Thailand, a positive feeling that won't get corrupted.
Your question about operating a motor vehicle is a good one. The answers to many of those types of questions become apparent when you really go into the practice of all the HeartMath techniques. There are about 8 that I teach over 4 one hour sessions, and you get to apply them to your own life in a very practical and effortless way.
For now though, to answer your question, it's quite safe as long as you have your eyes open . (Another reason to practice with eyes open as well as closed). The type of awareness you can develop is the type that allows you to listen and sing along to a song on the radio while driving. Don't tell anyone, but one morning on the way to deliver training I was connected to my emWave2 (which does the same as the Inner Balance Trainer, but without the screens), texting on my mobile phone, singing along to Dakota by Stereophonics at the top of my voice, while driving in morning traffic!! And I was completely in the "green" and coherent on level 3!
Another way to look at that heart-focus and heart-feeling (emotion) is to use it as a way to prepare for that activity. Imagine what it would be like for kids in school to use before they enter the exam hall? Instead of feeling nervous and having their focus on "did I study enough?", they'd be feeling calm, confident, at ease and ready to answer anything (physiologically the signal to the brain from the heart via the vagas nerve is clear and "smooth", producing what we refer to as cortical facilitation). They would be in the zone!
For a long time now "the zone" has been thought of as this magical state which occurs at random times. I remember Tony Robbins once talking about deciding ahead of time to create the desired state you want to be in before you begin the activity you would like the state for. I remember clearly he spoke about running at the time... how good a run can sometimes feel, and other times not... and what the difference between the two runs were. It was the state you were in during the run. So why not choose beforehand? And up until now there hasn't really been an accurate measure of state, and while we attempted to create a high performance state, we secretly wondered if we were really "in it" ... however, HRV with Inner Balance Trainer gives us that immediate feedback, and more! It really is about training your inner balance.... to choose to be more and more in the moments of peak performance.
Hi Alan. Thank you for all your responses! They are really informative and make me want an Inner balance all the more. I just had an idea for you to suggest to the Heartmath people. You know those tattoos that vibrate when you get a call? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/vibrating-tattoo-nokia-patent-phone-ringing_n_1369978.html You guys should set up a system with the Inner balance so that you can have the phone in your pocket and the IR sensor on your ear and have the tattoo vibrate when you're in a state of coherence. That way you wouldn't even have to be paying attention to your phone to know if you're in the zone. Just be sure to remember me when you make millions.
thanks very much alan. i like the perspective of looking at it as preparation. that makes sense.
i've had the feeling of being in "the zone" playing basketball where it seemed that everything i did was right and that i was in the right passing lanes to get steals and couldn't miss any shots and just seemed to find the right position for rebounds every time a shot went up. i've always looked at that as just a place where focus is so single-minded that every bit of being in the mind is going into creating success in the target activity that it's just inevitable. i've experienced it writing software as well where i the code just poured out of me such that i produced in ways i didn't think possible. i hadn't previously thought of associating that state with hrv training. the impact of what i think you are saying is astounding. if you could prepare for and choose to be in that state, that's the holy grail of biohacking in my mind. if your coaching could help to get me to a place where i could tap that once-in-while dominance on a predictable basis, you've got something extraordinary. i'm bookmarking your site and will follow you a bit. i'm glad you made yourself known here.
and your secret about what you do while driving is safe with me.
Hi Dr M... Interesting idea... vibrating tattoos and sound cues! It's an amazing time to be alive with all this great stuff at our disposal! Unfortunately I'm not part of the development team for the Inner Balance, but if I see anything like that happening I'll remember where I read it first!
thanks very much alan. i like the perspective of looking at it as preparation. that makes sense. i've had the feeling of being in "the zone" playing basketball where it seemed that everything i did was right and that i was in the right passing lanes to get steals and couldn't miss any shots and just seemed to find the right position for rebounds every time a shot went up. i've always looked at that as just a place where focus is so single-minded that every bit of being in the mind is going into creating success in the target activity that it's just inevitable. i've experienced it writing software as well where i the code just poured out of me such that i produced in ways i didn't think possible. i hadn't previously thought of associating that state with hrv training. the impact of what i think you are saying is astounding. if you could prepare for and choose to be in that state, that's the holy grail of biohacking in my mind. if your coaching could help to get me to a place where i could tap that once-in-while dominance on a predictable basis, you've got something extraordinary. i'm bookmarking your site and will follow you a bit. i'm glad you made yourself known here. and your secret about what you do while driving is safe with me.
Dave, that's exactly what I'm talking about! It's not a far-fetched notion at all, and in fact very accessible.
NLP has made wonderful contributions in eliciting and anchoring peak states which we would then be able to recall at will by re-firing the anchor. The trick for me was always in having to trust that the peak state and anchor was achieved, and that the re-firing of the anchor would do it's job in recalling the same peak state. Now that we have easy access to HRV feedback, which gives us that immediately.. we know without a doubt when we're in the peak state (Coherence), and our practice teaches us to shift attention into that "single-minded" focus whenever needed.
If I may, and to offer another practical example, I watched the video of Katolotus's most recent match (the link is in his signature). First off, I have to say I admire anyone dedicated to their passion... and for a man to have the body you do Katolotus, at your age, is fantastic! I'm 41 and very envious.. and very grateful my girlfriend is happy with my body as it is... but Dude, well done! I'm going back to yoga! Thanks for the inspiration! Watching the match, and having trained in Aikido, Tai-Jitsu, and Tai-Chi in my late teens and early 20's, I couldn't help but wonder how much adrenalin must course through your body as you enter the ring and confront your opponent. Although I never faced an opponent in the ring, I could relate, as the dojo is it's own ring, as well as being a microcosm of the world at large. Even just in the moments before getting into the ring, psyching yourself up, your heart rate is most definitely very high, and your excitement can easily turn into anxiety, or the other way around as you think about confronting that opponent. No matter how well you have trained your body and your reflexes, your mind and state can still slow you down. It takes more energy to move from a tense position than from a more natural and "loose" stance. What tenses us up? It's our thoughts and feelings about something. And how different could such a match be if you were able to neutralise any such thoughts and emotions, and completely get into that peak state at will? What sort of advantage would that have?
I'm not talking about meditation here as an answer to those questions. Although very beneficial, meditation is a quietening of the mind, and a relaxing of the body (Parasympathetic, which we can physically see on the Power Spectrum of the Inner Balance Trainer)... and although both can be associated with being Coherent, what I'm talking about here specifically is having flexibility in your response, coming from a natural or neutral place (much like being in neutral first before going into a higher gear while driving a manual car)... where you have enough free energy available to choose your response appropriately in the moment, without having to necessarily "think" about it, because you've done the practice before the time.
And thanks for keeping my secret!
This is an absolutely fantastic thread, thank you so much everyone for all the input you have given here (especially you Katolotus for starting it up).
What you said in your first post resonates so well with me, in that if Dave recommends something so often and enthusiastically is must be worth it right? I mean after all everything else that I've learned from him has been incredibly life changing. He has completely transformed the way that I look at life. So you got me strongly considering looking into Inner Balance regardless of the cost, simply because of the potential benefit for it. The only thing that was still holding me back is wondering how difficult or pricy it would be to get hold of it here in Cape Town, South Africa.
As you can imagine I was pretty stoked when I scrolled down a bit more and AlanStrydom introduced himself, and that he is also from Cape Town!! What are the chances of that?
Alan, I've definitely added your blog's RSS feed to the long list of many that I follow (complete information overload junkie), and I'm sure after a bit more research you will see a purchase from me coming your way.
Hey GGS! Great to see a fellow Cape Tonian here Feel free to call me anytime regarding HeartMath or Inner Balance Trainer. I'm presenting a talk on the first of August if you're interested....
Quick related question: is this product identical basically to the Emwave2? I am considering one or the other and am not sure if buying cheaper here is buying dire...
@Alan that would be awesome thanks, I would definitely be keen to check it out. Could you possibly please message me some more details?
@Joeld123, as far as I can tell yes it is the same thing. Looking at the link that Alan gives in his signature to http://www.heartmathsouthafrica.co.za/ and http://www.heartmathstore.co.za/ shows the products being emWave2.
I get this question a lot actually, so here are some of the main points of comparison that I look at:
1) Both can be used on-the-go, although I personally find it easier to use the emWave2 as a portable device for a couple of reasons:
a) The emWave2 is already "set up" and a self-contained unit. I have mine in the pouch that clips onto my belt. I drive with mine on, use it while flying, walking in the forest, watching a movie at the cinema, etc. In those cases I use it to monitor my sate of "unconscious" coherence... if you think in the terms of unconscious competence.
For me the Inner Balance feels like an additional "step" to take to set up, either on my iphone or ipad mini. Although I initially loved the idea of having the same technology at my fingertips via attached to my iphone, and only having to carry the connector and ear sensor with me, I've since felt the "disconnect" from the Inner Balance and my phone, because my phone is, well, a phone. Personally I can't get used to the idea of using my phone in that way... but that's just me
c) In the evening my emWave2 lies next to my bed, ready for a night or morning session. My iphone sleeps in my study at night.
2) emWave2 can be attached to your computer or laptop and run through the supplied software, as well as being able to download, save and export your sessions if you want.
From a coaching point of view this is particularly handy for me. I have the emWave Desktop (professional) version as well, and some of my clients that I see face-to-face bring their own emWave2 and I can download their sessions and save it under their name on the pro version, thus keeping track of all their progress.
3) The Inner Balance Trainer shows more information more readily than the emWave2, and is customisable by adding your own soundtrack and inspirational image for on-the-go practice. The on-screen prompts, cues, and coherence coach make it easier to focus and achieve coherence (the emWave2 seems to take a bit more practice).
a) Once on a particular flight home I had a very nervous young girl sitting next to me on the plane. I talked her through the steps of Neutral during takeoff, and shortly after we were airborne I took out the Inner Balance Trainer and hooked her up on my ipad mini so she could "see" what she had just practiced, and at least anchor some of that experience for her. I wouldn't have been able to do it quite as easily with the emWave2, being that it isn't as visual.
4) The emWave2 software has additional games and visualizers, as well as "My Inspiration" and the Coherence Coach. Some people don't like looking at graphs (which can cause more stress and performance anxiety), and prefer the games. There is a timed game wherein you have to sustain medium to high coherence in order to "colour in" a black and white garden within three minutes. This is great for kids and people who are more visual.
a) As a comparison, the Inner Balance only has "My Inspiration", and two breathing pacer screens to choose from, and then the different graphs.
Hopefully this was a little helpful. It would really depend on how you intend using it. Both will monitor your practice in coherence, but from a price point of view it's a no-brainer...
This is my first post on the forum. First off, thank you Alan and others. I have been following this thread for a while and the information here has helped a lot in improving my HRV practice sessions.
I have been using the iOS trainer on iPhone with the Inner Balance App. I usually train for 20 mins/day (two 10-min sessions) 4-5x/week. Right now, I am at Level 3 and my target for every session is to be in the green coherence zone for >70% of time in the 10-min session.
One of the takeaways for me from this thread has been that coherence is not directly related to heart rate (HR). So, one can be in high coherence with low HR or high HR depending on the type of task, current state of mind, time of day etc.
Now, I take 200mcg Modafinil on certain days. The dose is always at the same time (~10 AM) and my HRV training sessions are at ~7:30 AM and ~11:00 PM. On non-Modafinil days, my HR usually fluctuates between 55 and 80 bpm during the night session. On modafinil days, my HR is consistently higher- between 85-110 bpm- during the night session (about 13 hrs after dose). However, there is no significant difference between HRV on these days and I'm able to stay in the green zone for >70% regardless of whether I dose with modafinil or not. Also, my HR for morning sessions is 55-75 bpm on all days.
Of course, it is possible that modafinil may not be cause for increased HR and there may be other confounding factors. I will keep testing, but I have observed it too many times for it to be a coincidence.
Thanks Alan, that's more than a little helpful. I have ordered the Inner Balance, I think it will suit my needs better. Your feedback helped me make an informed decision
I've just moved up to level 3 after improved performances during my break. I've also changed the music to instrumentals, which has made the session more focused. Been getting regular coherence scores above 4.0 for my two 10min sessions per day.
SUCCESS: A lot of little things done well