The Breathing App
The Breathing App is inspired by resonance, the scientific name that describes what happens when our heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, and brainwave function come into a coherent frequency. It occurs spontaneously when we breathe at a rate of five to seven breaths per minute (instead of our usual 15-18). It results in a calm, restful alertness and many other benefits.
How Should I Use the App?
In the settings, there are only two things to choose:
1. Length of time: Resonance breathing is most effective when it is done everyday, for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. You can start for four or five minutes, and then build up from there. It’s not necessary to start with a long session. It can be done lying down, with your legs up a wall, in a chair, or sitting in a meditative position. So, choose a comfortable position and set the timer. It will show a countdown clock if you need to know how much time you have left in your session. If you only have one or two minutes to practice, that is fine – we have made sure the timer will give you one or two minutes, if that is all you have time for—perhaps in between subway stops, or taking the elevator up to a job interview.
2. Next, choose your breathing ratio. There are four different breath ratios you can choose from. Figure out which one to use by taking a nice, slow, slightly elongated inhale, and count how many seconds you inhale for. The inhale length will determine automatically how long the exhale should be, which should be equal in length to the exhale. We also have given the option of making the exhale a little longer than the inhale, this is to help heighten the effect of activating the parasympathetic nervous system. When you need to relax or calm down more due to high stress, lengthening the exhale will help with this, by activating parasympathetic.
The ratios are:
- Inhale for four seconds, exhale for six (4-6)
- Inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds (5-5)
- Inhale for six seconds, exhale for six seconds (true resonance) (6-6)
- Inhale for five seconds, exhale for seven seconds (5-7)
Finally, there are three screens to choose from (not in the menu bar, but as a swipe through):
- Breathing Ball, that gets larger to cue your inhale, and smaller to cue the exhale;
- Clock, that counts up on the inhale, and down on the exhale;
- Sound Breath Guide, for those who wish to breathe with their eyes closed, or to listen with headphones, on the subway, on a plane, or at work.
The screen that has music for the breathing cues has the added benefit of brainwave entrainment, which is the capacity of the brain to naturally synchronize its frequencies with rhythmic sounds. The frequency of resonant breathing correlates with the delta brainwave frequency, which occurs during our state of deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, and also deep states of meditation. The Yogis practice yoga nidra, or sleep yoga, where they remain conscious even while in deep sleep. This is practiced in modern day yoga classes as final relaxation.
Choose which screen works best for you, then press play, and off you go.
Please keep in mind the following tips for a calm and stress free breathing session:
- It doesn’t have to be “right” – there is no right breathing, since we do it all the time. There is just some breathing that is more effective for gas exchange, and more effective for reducing levels of stress. Resonance is one of those types of breathing.
- In the beginning, don’t try to do every breath. Just work on elongating the exhale along with the cues. After that becomes comfortable, you can try elongating your inhales to match the cues. Then, when you are ready, you can string the breaths together. Whenever you feel any stress building up (which happens on occasion), pause, go back to your regular breathing rhythm, and then when you are ready, try again. It takes a few minutes to settle in.
- Please try not to be self-critical or self-judgmental when you do the breathing; we are not looking to become expert breathers with this app, because breathing is something we already do! There is no “right” breathing;
- Let your belly gradually relax, and try not to breathe too, too much in your chest. The effects will be deeper and more profound within your nervous system;
- Give yourself a few minutes to settle in. The calm feeling that accompanies resonant breathing happens after the nervous system gets accustomed to the ratio, so go slow, and give yourself time. If we try to rush it, it will take longer to work.
- Breath with a feeling of kindness, love, or compassion, for yourself, or for the process of breathing. This has a wonderful effect on the mind, heart, and vagus nerve (which helps to reduce inflammation).
When you are finished with your session
Sit quietly for a moment or two. The quiet space you have created within yourself is a good place for reflection. Ask yourself the following questions, without looking for answers, just letting the questions ripple in your field of consciousness like the ripples made in water when a small pebble is dropped into a lake:
- Who am I?
- What is my deepest desire?
- What am I grateful for?
If answers come, it is fine, but they don’t have to. Feel as though you are absorbing the effects of the breathing into your cellular body, and into your nervous system memory. Soak in the peaceful feeling like a sponge.
Bring this equilibrium of awareness with you into your day. If there is a project, a goal you have, or a problem you need to work out, engage it with your sense of “I am”. Remember that each person you are interacting with, either physically or mentally, also is operating with this very same sense of I am, as well. The consciousness that lies underneath the feeling of I am is the same as you as it is in that person, as it is in me, and everyone else.
When you are ready, you can get up and go about your day.
Try to practice every day for 10-20 minutes. After about 5 weeks, you will develop a habit of sitting and breathing that will come automatically.
Resonant breathing gives you back your sense of you. It puts you back in the driver’s seat, when the increasing load of the world so often takes over. In resonant breathing, you spend a few minutes each day living and breathing in a perfect balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic, in a neutral zone of mental calm and equilibrium, of conscious peace.