This week I rediscovered the old practice of biofeedback in the form of smart phone apps. I read “The Instinct to Heal” by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber on the recommendation of a colleague*, and was struck by a chapter on cardiac coherence**. He describes how the old practices of meditation, yoga, relaxation exercises improve heart function, breathing, stress, depression, and anxiety through cardiac coherence. The basic idea is that through breathing exercises we can entrain our heart into regular, slow rhythms that has significant benefits for our overall health.
Some (like me) find it difficult to maintain breathing exercises for more than a minute at a time without assistance. In the past, getting assistance meant going to a class or buying an expensive biofeedback device, neither of which appeals to people already feeling stressed and short on time and money. So, while cardiac coherence seemed like a great way to reduce stress, it seemed impractical.
New technology in smart phone apps is making cardiac coherence accessible for everyone. I found a number of apps for iphone and android which use the concept of cardiac coherence and teach you breathing patterns to reduce stress. For iphone/ipad I like the Vital E-Q Respiroguide ($1.99) and for Android I like BreathBiofeedback (free). With these apps, your phone will use a moving diagram of your breath to guide you to regular, slow breathing patterns. The apps also use sound to guide you, in some cases using a rhythmic whishing sound, in other cases using tones to tell you when your breathing patterns are improving. Try it for 10 minutes a day for a week and see if it works for you. I would love to hear your experiences!