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Last year I learned how to teach the Heartmath technique – find out more about Heartmath here.

Here’s a simple guide to the theory and the practice.

Here is a map called “the emotions map”

It has two axes – the vertical one shows the “autonomic nervous system” – this is the part of the nervous system which is responsible for the survival responses of “Fight of Flight OR Freeze” reactions. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two pathways – sympathetic and parasympathetic. Think of the sympathetic as being like the accelerator – when it is active there is a lot of adrenaline released into your system, your heart beats faster, your breathing is faster, and your body mobilises oxygen and energy to all your muscles ready to help you “fight or flee”.

The other path is the parasympathetic and can be thought of as a brake – through activation of the “vagus nerve” it slows down the heart, quietens and closes down your systems – the “freeze” reaction. We frequently oscillate wildly between these two extremes, flying from panic to collapse and back again!

The second axis, the horizontal one has one of the body’s main defence hormones at the left – cortisol. This is necessary for normal defence, but in excess cortisol can do a lot of harm. It’s sometimes called the “Stress hormone”. The right hand edge of this axis is “DHEA”, sometimes known as the “vitality hormone” – when there is a lot of this in the body, all the cells age more slowly and growth is stimulated.

What we want to achieve is a harmony of these systems – when we are in the top left quadrant our heart rhythm is chaotic. The heart rate varies all the time in a normal heart, but when the “heart rate variability” is chaotic, we’re not in a good place! Interestingly, when we are in the zone on the right of this chart, our heart slips into “coherence” – a kind of overlaid smooth, harmonious rhythm of the heart rate variability. In coherence we have harmony, we reduce the stress hormones and the excess autonomic activity, and we redress the balance between cortisol and DHEA.

Now here comes the fascinating bit – each of these zones or quadrants is associated with particular emotional states, with particular feelings.

The Heartmath technique consists of re-experiencing one of the “positive” emotions on the right of this chart by recalling and reliving an episode or even where we felt such a feeling.

There are three steps to achieve “Quick Coherence” – a basic Heartmath technique.

Step 1. Heart focus. Bring your attention or your focus to the heart area of your body.

Step 2. Heart breathing. Take three, slow, deep, even breaths, filling the heart area of your body with oxygen, then emptying your lungs of all the carbon dioxide. Slowly in, slowly out, for three breaths.

Step 3. Heart feeling. Now recall an event where you experienced one of the positive, heart felt emotions. Here’s a couple of ones I use to give you an idea of the kind of event I mean. One is one of my grandchildren running up to me, shouting “grandpa!” and jumping up into my arms. That’s a great one! Another is looking out over Ben Ledi from my living room window when we have one of those gorgeous deep red sunsets – just amazing! Pick one of your own, and recollect it. Stay with that memory until you become aware that you are feeling that feeling again. This is about recreating a feeling. Once you have it, that’s it. You’re there.

Congratulations, you just managed “Quick coherence”.

Do check out the Heartmath Institute website – lots of great resources there to explore this technique in more detail!

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