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Cardiac coherence

The impact of breathing

Breathing influences the way the autonomic nervous system regulates heart rate. Inhalation temporarily inhibits the influence of the parasympathetic system and increases heart rate, while exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic system and decreases heart rate.

A better balance

Cardiac coherence allows to increase the adaptability of the autonomic nervous system in the face of stimuli or stress. It makes the autonomic nervous system more flexible, so as to combat somatic and psychological pathologies, and thus allow the organism to maintain a better cardiac, respiratory and cerebral balance.

These rythmic oscillations, which are caused by breathing, are called respiratory sinus arryhtmia (RSA).

The parasympathetic system, which reacts more quickly, is the principal cause of RSA. Thus, RSA is a good indicator of the impact of the parasympathetic system on heart variability.

Recent research has defined the concept of cardiac coherence, which describes an ideal sympathovagal balance, i.e. respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
Cardiac coherence can be reached by controlling one’s breathing and by limiting the impact of stress and emotions on heart rate variability.

Breathing and relaxation techniques can allow, when used in conjunction with heart rate variability biofeedback, to achieve cardiac coherence through regular practice.

The tachogram

The tachogram is a graph that plots heart rate variability, expressed in beats per minute (bpm).

On a tachogram, cardiac coherence corresponds to respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and it appears as a sinusoid-shaped curve which reflects the influence of vagal tone.

Accelerations and decelerations of heart rate gradually become regular and coherent. This is why cardiac coherence can be observed in states of wellness, of calm, of composure.

On the contrary, when a subject experiences stress, anxiety or anger, the tachogram becomes chaotic, and its magnitude decreases.