Yoga or Tai Chi or for that matter, many ancient techniques involve slow and systematic breathing processes.  What is the science behind slow breathing (also known as coherent breathing or to some extent Pranayama or Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback-HRB Biofeedback)?

Let’s review the scientific evidence:

  • A growing number of studies show that breathing techniques are effective against anxiety and insomnia[1].
  • These techniques influence both physiological factors(by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological factors (by diverting attention from thoughts).
  • Enhanced coherence (or heart rate variability) is linked to better quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
  • Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback practice, when repeated over several weeks, enhances emotional regulation and reduces anxiety.
  • A high Heart Rate Variability is associated with a better general health status as it allows the organism to better adjust to external and internal stimuli and, in parallel, a low HRV is a predictor of cardiovascular and metabolic and higher risk of mortality. (For further reading, please read our publication on heart rate variability)
  • Enhanced coherence is also linked to increased concentration (our findings show an increase in cognitive function of >12%. Source: Unpublished data, SEE, Wellness Space)

When should we practice it?

First and foremost, it is important to practice and develop the competency.  People tell us, show me what the technique is and I will use it when I need it. It does not work that way.  That practice needs to be perfected so one can use it with least effort when needed i.e.literally, without thinking or ideally in an unconscious manner!  Having done enough practice, during occasional episodes of stress—for example, before taking an exam, competing in a sporting event or even attending a routine meeting at work, an individual can practice this.

In 2017 Ashwin Kamath of Manipal University in India and his colleagues studied stage fright before a public speaking engagement. The participants, all medical students, spent 15 minutes doing alternate nostril breathing—that is, slowly inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other by applying finger pressure to the side of the nose not being used. Compared with members of the control group, participants experienced somewhat less stress when speaking publicly.

Sports and biofeedback

Despite the limited amount of experimental studies in the field to date, the findings suggest that heart rate variability biofeedback is an effective, safe, and easy-to-learn and apply method for both athletes and coaches in order to improve sport performance[2].

What is HRV?

HRV is a physiological phenomenon denoting the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. This interval is measured in milliseconds and is called the ‘R-R interval” or the “inter-beat interval”. It is important to understand this concept because a low HRV, i.e., less variability in the heart beats indicates that the body is under stress due to physiological reasons, exercise, or any other external stressor. Also important is the nature of the variation. Stress, anger, frustration, anxiety and other such negative emotions cause the variations to be chaotic. Positive emotions e.g. gratitude, love etc. lead to rhythmic and ordered variations. For further details, read Zikr and HRV.

Expertise at Society for Energy & Emotions, Wellness Space in this area

At Wellness Space, we have expertise in guiding the clients in this area. Riri G Trivedi is a Heartmath Certified Mentor trained in coherence methodology.  Our research includes understanding how HRV is critical to health and wellbeing, use of HRV to understand the reduction in stress during Himalayan Singing Bowl relaxation and so on. This technique is integrated into SEE Protocol (covered during Module 1 of Integrated Certification on Regression Therapy & Life Coaching). Our Naad Yoga workshops cover these techniques at length.


[1] Proper Breathing Brings Better Health, Scientific American, Christophe André on January 15, 2019.

[2] Jiménez-Morgan, Sergio & Molina Mora, José. (2017). Effect of Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback on Sport Performance, a Systematic Review. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 42. 1-11. 10.1007/s10484-017-9364-2.