Why is Coherence Important for Your Mental State?
Coherence and its importance!
I had never worked with that intent before, or thought of what it means being applied to my mind and body. It was an experience that brought me into a state I don't think I ever felt before - as I lay in Savasana after a 2 hour practice, my entire body was in a state of bliss.
In that moment, I was exactly where I was meant to be... content and serene with no need to change anything about that moment or my past or my future. Sounds cool, right?
What is Coherence?
When your body is under perceived stress whether the threat is real or imagine, our body releases stress hormones to tackle the challenge. This is hyper-arousal. In that moment, the body is completely out of balance because it is using enormous amount of energy to deal with the issue at hand. This is a super helpful and natural response which helped us stay alive and thrive as humans.
In the wild, you see animals shaking off the stress from their body after being chased by a predator. This helps them return to a place of balance and coherence. Humans, from time immemorial in places like China, India, Africa and Native American cultures, have used movement, chanting, rhythmic drumming to recreate exactly that same response as the impala shaking off the stressful experience of running away from a cheetah - returning to an even keel, balance or Coherence.
When we are in survival mode we become materialists, defining the world with our senses - by what we can see, smell, hear, feel, taste. We also become outwardly focused because that is where danger lies. This reaction is (meant to be) a short term response.
Nowadays, however, after just one phone call from a colleague or an individual who elicit a strong emotional reaction such as anger, frustration, shame, guilt, suffering we turn on our primitive reaction to stress by releasing a cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol to combat the issue. The problems arise when we stay in this state for long periods of time! Body becomes out of balance. Why? Well, maybe your brain comprehends that the danger is no longer there but your body is still fighting.
During stressful times when you experience negative emotions, the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions.
How You Achieve Coherence
Your vagus nerve runs from your brain all the way down through to the opening of your diaphragm to the gut, and its purpose is to send signals to adjust the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. This has effects on heart rate, digestion, and general feelings of being calm. In general, your vagus nerve has the job of slowing down your heart when it speeds up, to keep it at a steady resilient rate.
This is why the easiest way to activate your vagus nerve to put the neural brake on a racing heart is to slow down your breath. This means you can do something within your conscious control that has an effect on processes that you otherwise can't directly control.
In 2001, researchers at the University of Pavia, Italy, conducted a study on 24 people. Measuring their blood flow, heart rate and nervous system they had to recite a Buddhist mantra and a Catholic prayer. Whilst repeating the prayer and the mantra they took on average 5.5 breaths per minute. This is almost identical to the pace of Hindu, Taoist and Native American prayers. Not only that, but when the test subjects repeated the prayers and followed this slow breathing pattern they increased blood flow to the brain and their whole system entered a state of coherence where functions of the heart, circulation and nervous system entered peak efficiency.
Slowing down your breaths to 5.5 breaths per minute (that is roughly 5.5 seconds to inhale and 5.5 seconds to exhale) can have an extremely calming effect on the body and mind.
As offices open up, and as we get more freedom to be out, socialise and see our loved ones... things can sometimes get overwhelming - there is so much we have missed out and so much to see and do!
Just a few minutes of Coherent Breathing a day can help ground you, bring you into a state of Coherence and Balance, and do wonders for your mental state!
The Yoke Wellness Ambassador,
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