Three weeks ago I was introduced to the concept of Coherent Breathing by my friend Elisha who is, among other things, a great breathing and meditation teacher. (If you’re curious about what she does, check out her website.)
Learning is always a full-body experience and goes beyond the transmission of information from one head to another. It has become my practice to not just listen to my teachers but also to make the knowledge my own.
I am turning the things I take in – if I believe them to be nourishing and beneficial for me – into embodied wisdom.
For me, to be able to know – in an embodied way – what I am learning and subsequently also what I’m passing on to my clients – I experiment with what I learn and practice and play with it in everyday life.
So, I’ve decided to practice Coherent Breathing daily for a month to see what it does for me.
And I want to share what I have learned so far about Coherent Breathing.
I won’t go into the science of it. If you are curious to learn more about it, you can check out the website of Stephen Elliott who developed this form of breathing practice.
Coherent Breathing is a way of breathing that creates a flowy state of breathing with no interruptions.
You breathe in and out without pausing. And you breathe at only 40-60 percent of your respiratory capacity. That sets it apart from other breathing techniques, like some pranayama practices.
The benefits of Coherent Breathing
Coherent Breathing is said to support creating a balanced autonomous nervous system. It strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, the part that ‘controls homeostasis and the body at rest and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function’.
- Improves heart rate variability
- Benefits blood circulation and circulation of all bodily fluids
- Improves respiratory function
- Supports self-awareness and noticing when you feel out of balance
How to breathe coherently
This is to give you an idea of how it works. I am not trained in this method. So if you want to learn it, please look up an expert for it in your area.
I thing getting the book and practicing yourself once you got the main idea, might also be fine for some. (I know that I have an inclination towards an autodidact approach. I like reading and then testing it for myself to get a first-hand experience.)
Before you start: download the breathing app Set the timer to between 5-7 seconds for the in-breath and out-breath. To start with, 5 seconds per breath is good. Once you got used to the technique you can play with the duration of the breath. 5-7 seconds is said to be the framework within coherent breathing has a beneficial impact.
- Set your breathing app (e.g. Paced Breathing for Android or breathe+ for iPhone) to between 5-7 seconds per breath. Five seconds is a good start. Longer breaths, don’t mean better results. Just go with what’s enjoyable and easy for you.
- Choose the duration of your practice.
(Anything from 10 minutes per day should create a noticeable effect for your body.)
- Practice lying down or sitting
(Lying down makes it even easier to relax the diaphragm.)
- Use 40-60 % of your lung capacity for each breath
- You breathe in a regular rhythm according to the sound of the app
Your in-breath and out-breath have the same duration
- There is no pause between inhalation and exhalation.
- Focus on relaxing the diaphragm as you exhale.
What Coherent Breathing has done for me
Since I learned this practice three weeks ago, I have been practicing every day. I started with 5-10 minutes twice per day (in the mornings and evenings). And at the moment, I’m doing 35 minutes in the morning after waking up and 20 minutes in the evening. I’ve slowly increased the duration of my practice, just because it feels really good and I want to make the most of it.
- Every practice is creating a subtle and smooth flow of energy in my body. I mostly feel it in the form of slight tingling in my feet, hands and head. Sometimes in my chin too.
- Better sleep. I have definitely slept better in the last few weeks. I also slightly changed my evening routine and I don’t have screen time before going to bed. That might also have influenced my sleep.
- Generally, my head feels very connected to the rest of the body. I don’t know if you know this feeling, but when I spend a lot of time writing on the computer or in meetings, I first notice my tiredness in the eyes and a heavy head. I have had much less of this, and more time feeling well and at ease in my body.
- More productive, less tiredness. The last weeks I have got quite a bit of work done without making myself too tired in the process. It was noticeable for me that I got a lot done without having a feeling of overextending myself.
I can’t say if those effects are entirely attributable to practicing Coherent Breathing. There might have been some influence of more sunshine as a side-effect of springtime or the fact that I have changed my evening routine. In any case, I can say it’s a very enjoyable breathing practice.
If you have experimented with Coherent Breathing and want to share your experience, please feel invited to comment below.
Or maybe you want to have a go at it yourself now?
I can highly recommend it and want to thank Elisha for sharing it with me and our EmbodimentLab group.