Welcome to Coherent Breathing!
Life scientist and engineer, Stephen Elliott, coined this term ‘coherent breathing’ and has been researching its benefits for over 20 years. He says this:
‘Coherent breathing is an evolving science: The current understanding is that benefits are ultimately an outcome of improved brain function via enhanced circulation in the brain, this, and care and feeding of every cell in the body.’
What is it?
Coherent breathing, otherwise known as universal or resonant breathing, has three initial levers:
1. Breathing through the nose
2. Taking the breath down into the belly
3. Breathing at an even rate and rhythm of 6/6 which is 5 rounds of breath a minute
Why do these foundations matter for health?
Nose breathing warms and filters the air we breathe. It also turbinates the air in the nasal passageways called nasal conchae. Breathing through the nose increases nitric oxide, helping with vasodilation of your blood vessels.
Taking the breath down into the belly is about moving your diaphragm, the key breathing muscle. Deep breathing helps promote feelings of calm, helps lower blood pressure and heart rate alongside increasing circulatory capacity.
Breathing at an even rate and rhythm of 6 seconds in on the inhale, 6 seconds out on the exhale without any pause, encourages lubrication and movement in the diaphragm, helping reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. The even rate is to enhance balance in the nervous system – there is activation on the inhale and there is release and decompression on the exhale. The belly rises on the inhale and naturally falls on the exhale. Like an ocean wave.
All the above can come with challenge. This is entirely normal as it’s likely you are learning a new way of breathing, different from existing patterns. It all comes with practice and a sense of compassion for yourself. It may suit you to begin with a 4/4 pattern and build up to 6/6.
The more you practise and re-educate your body, the more natural it becomes.
Over time, there are additional levers to introduce:
4. Breath moving and imagination – for example we might imagine the rise of an ocean wave on our inhale and the natural, effortless falling way of the wave on the exhale.
5. Adding in a baby snore sound (you might know this as 'ujayi' breathing, at the back of the throat, creating a gentle purr
6. Adding in postural movements to set the pace for your own breathing, for example, raising the arms on an inhale and lowering them on the exhale.
Our breath is what we all have in common. Learning to breathe well can unlock considerable benefit for a myriad of situations, ranging from respiratory ailments, including asthma and long covid, to reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. There are no contra-indications to this form of breathing.
Practical guidance and experience are important. You are invited to visit my Wholly Aligned podcast for further detail, including an episode of 20 minutes of guided coherent breathing. The most popular episode yet!
Yours in breathing.
P.S - I moved from Crystal Palace to Ramsgate in Summer 2022 and is so keen to be a light in the community. With a wealth of experience, ranging from social prescribing to medic wellbeing and a vast knowledge of an integrative and wholistic view on health, may this Wholly Aligned journey continue to empower and help many. Any local community groups, or indeed medic/medic trainee groups in Canterbury and London, curious to be guided in coherent breathing, please get in touch. I’m here and open to cross pollinating ideas for whole and better health. We are all making it up as we go along - this river of living.
So much love your way