Out of all the science I currently have my fingers in these days, the one I am most excited about deals with matters of the heart.
Perhaps traditionally we have considered a steady heart rate to be a healthy heart rate but after considering much of the research coming out of the Institute of HeartMath™ about heart rate variability and physiological coherence, among other places, that all seems to be turned on its head.
Heart rate variability was initially used in modern medicine during the swinging years of 1960’s obstetrics but up until recent years it has been a difficult factor for science to practically measure and thus utilize.
Fortunately for us, with the advancement of technology, this biological phenomenon is easier and more affordable than ever to harness; and many groups have since used it in the advancement and understanding of the human condition.

What is Physiological Coherence?

What studies are showing is that when individuals are consciously breathing in a certain fashion while simultaneously experiencing positive feelings, thoughts, and emotions; their heart rate variability begins to change rapidly as it accelerates and decelerates. This state is known as Physiological Coherence.

Why is this so good? Who gives a shit?

When we are in a state of physiological coherence our body seeks to put itself in psychological and physiological order and as a result we experience a host of health and human performance benefits.

Much of this is done through what appears to be a synchronization of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and as a result creates specific heart rate patterns which when looked at on a heart rate variability graph appear in a sine wave pattern of grace.
These sine wave patterns indicate that the subject is experiencing sustained positive emotions,such as appreciation, love, or compassion; and is in a state of physiological coherence.
Using real time biofeedback monitoring equipment subjects can efficiently and effectively train to enter this state of physiological coherence at will – even in some of the most taxing of circumstance.

Cut the crap, Mark. Is this Physiological Coherence going to sort out my shit or what?

Knowing nothing about your condition but considering all of the evidence presented in all of the research regarding heart rate variability and physiological coherence…
I would say most likely!
This is very exciting stuff, let’s get into it….
Since we are calling it physiological coherence let’s first look at some of the physiological benefits and correlations of coherence.

Physiological Benefits of Physiological Coherence
  • Increased synchronization between the two branches of the autonomic nervous system
    • You become a well oiled machine!
  • Autonomic nervous system balance that leans toward increased parasympathetic activity.
    • You chill the fuck out!
  • Increased respiratory efficiency.
    • Have another cigarette!
  • Inhibition of of pain signals and sympathetic outflow.
    • Less pain, less emotional response!
    • “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” – HS Thompson
  • Increased cardiac performance including…
    • Increased fluid exchange, filtration, and capillary-tissue absorption.
    • Increased adaptation to circulatory demand.
  • Increased temporal synchronization of cells throughout the body.
What does this all mean?

In conjunction with many other treatments and modalities, clinicians have found that using heart rate variability physiological coherence training in addition to their normal prescriptions has been very effective in treating chronic disease especially those linked to emotional stress.

These chronic diseases include…

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • Asthma
  • Environmental Sensitivity
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias

Yes, stress – it kills!
While all of these diseases pop their nasty fucking heads up in our physiological functioning, our human condition is psychosomatic, and our psychological functioning plays a huge role in our physical health and human performance.

Psychological Benefits of Physiological Coherence

Fortunately, those well versed in the art of physiological coherence have managed to show significant reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); while increasing anger management and impulse control.
This leads to increases in positive feelings and attitudes ; and increases DHEA/cortisol ratio which is pertinent in the fight against ageing and can effect…

  • Skin Elasticity
  • Memory and Learning
  • Bone Density
  • Immune Function
  • Metabolism
  • Liver Function
  • Cholesterol Levels
  • Pancreatic Function
  • Blood Sugar Levels

A high level of cortisol: DHEA is linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and HIV related disease.
As we enter a state of coherence we shift from a low performing negative state to high performing state of positivity our DHEA:Cortisol ratio increases thus slowing down or reversing many of the detrimental effects of a high Cortisol:DEHA ratio.
And yes, if you are anything like me – the high performing states are really the topic of interest so let’s go there now!

Performance Benefits of Physiological Coherence

Do you want super powers or what?
There is a lot coming here so I will ease into it…
Let’s pick up where we left off looking at stress and see how Heart Rate Variability Training mediates it and where the real world implications lie.

At the end of the day, before we can formulate our own ideas, we initially go to school so that we can learn to tell people what they want to hear. This is most often takes place in the form of a test.
Several studies have shown that heart rate variability physiological coherence training dramatically improves test taking anxiety levels thus improving test performance.
Studies involving high school students, standardized tests, and coherence; have shown a 14% to 35% increase in test scores in reading and math after 8 hours of training (over a 3-week period) with biofeedback coherence-building techniques.
Another study conducted by the University of Cincinnati found that when integrating mathematics instruction with physiological coherence training students made seemingly miraculous improvements on their University math placement tests.
Sooner or later we all graduate from school, whether we get a diploma or not, and this is when the real test of life begins.
One of the first life tests many of us must continue to pass is maintaining gainful employment. The workplace can be stressful, and for law enforcement officers this probably hits closer to home than anyone.
Just imagine all the fucking psychos they deal with every day.
Fortunately for us, the Santa Clara Police Department participated in a HeartMath Institute study which ultimately showed that physiological coherence training resulted in reduction in damaging physiological and psychological responses to both acute and chronic stress and improved various valued aspects of life for police officers who participated in coherence training exercises.
While stress reduction is only the beginning of the wide array of performance related benefits it is seemingly a gateway into deeper waters. As performance anxiety decreases so does, internal static and noise, leaving the mind with a much clearer picture of the signal it needs to tune into and get into the zone and stay there for extended periods of time.
This is pretty much the point where Clark Kent steps inside the phone booth.
Once the internal resistance is silenced, that is when the increases cognitive abilities come into play.
And I’m not talking about a fucking math test, either.
One study conducted on physiological coherence participants were tested on cognitive tasks that needed focused attention, discrimination, and a quick and accurate reaction. Subjects were tested before and after receiving coherence training where the control group received no physiological coherence training at all but participated in a relaxation exercise.
Results came out that participants who increased heart rate variability physiological coherence training yielded a significant improvement in cognitive performance.
The control group failed to demonstrate increase in physiological coherence or improvement in performance.
Sustained states of physiological coherence may lead to changes in the brain’s information-processing capabilities that can result in measurable improvements in performance on tasks requiring cognitive abilities such as focus, attention, discrimination, and quick/accurate reactions.
With the improved physiological functioning, carefree disposition, gunslinger quick reaction times, laser focus, and the ability to enter the zone at will; it is no wonder how heart rate variability physiological coherence training is being used in a wide variety of competitions both on and off the field.
At the end of the day though, most of us would probably like to do a bit more than just handle balls; and as it turns out there are more eloquent ways of dealing with the offence besides just running away from them.
You see, one of the craziest things about all this coherence is this…
Individuals who have been observed to be in a state of coherence have shown that they can effectively manipulate the nature of biological agents.
This is most easily demonstrated in saliva crystal experiments where subjects are said to be able to affect the structure of their body fluids.
While I’m sure you could whip up some jizz with a pretty formidable structure; it probably isn’t going to keep those pirates at bay.
This is where the manipulation of DNA comes into play.
It turns out that you can actually affect the nature of DNA while in a loving state of physiological coherence.
I’m not just talking about your own DNA, I’m talking about other people’s DNA; non-local DNA, DNA that is a half mile away from you.
This is exactly what a study on physiological coherence and intra and extra body DNA manipulation found when they had a subject enter into a state of physiological coherence while simultaneously directing them to either denature or renature DNA found in a specific solution a half mile away. Participants were able to affect three different known samples all sitting next to each other with the exact intended outcomes for each specific one.
“All individuals capable of generating high ECG coherence ratios could alter the conformation of DNA according to their intention. Intending to unwind or wind the DNA produced increases or decreases in the UV absorption peak at 260 nm. Untrained individuals, who were not able to sustain feelings of love, showed low ratios of ECG coherence and were unable to intentionally alter the conformation of DNA.”
Have you ever heard the phrase “Love thy enemy”?
(No? Ok, I made it up; but it is perhaps loosely based on Mathew 5:44…)
It turns out that all you have to do is be able to crush your enemies (on a molecular level) is to be able get into a deep state of loving coherence while on the battlefield and simply wish for their DNA to unravel before you.
Magic? No, it is simply science.
Wow, Mark; that got pretty weird pretty fast…
Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to that!

Weird story short: what we are seeing here is that this is not only a creative force but also a destructive one; a two sided coin, if you will?

Quickly moving on…
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and the International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange reported these findings from a three part study on the nature of intuition in relation to the heart and physiological coherence.
(It looks like the band broke up sometime after the 2nd study but the drummer finished the album…)
The study’s goals were to “further the understanding of intuition, a process by which information normally outside the range of conscious awareness is perceived by the body’s psychophysiological systems.”
30 calm and 15 emotionally arousing pictures were presented to 26 participants under two experimental conditions: a baseline condition of “normal” psychophysiologic function and a condition of physiological coherence.
Interestingly, what the study reported was that the heart, along with the brain, has a hand in receiving and processing intuitive information.
Intuitive information can be received anywhere from 4-7 seconds before the event occurs.
As it seems to be observed, the heart actually receives this information before the brain. While the heart and brain play a big role in intuition, intuition seems to be a system wide team sport.
Heart Rate Variability plays a role in this as the heart is observed to rapidly decelerate just prior to the stimulus.
The more visceral the event would be perceived to be – the stronger the intuitive signal.
Women seem to have a greater intuitive faculty than men and their intuitive power increased after entering a 15 minute state of Coherence where the men showed no benefit after doing the same. In addition to this, their brains appear to process intuitive information in the frontal portion of the brain where men operate in the rear.
The third part of this study was actually more of a proposition of theory for how all this works.
I must admit that I don’t totally understand it as it has to do with quantum mechanics which is a bit beyond my scope.

    While this all sounds pretty crazy, quantum theory is regarded as real deal science these days and despite several studies trying to disprove these theories and phenomena of heart rate variability and intuition they have come up short.
    The power of the heart rate variability has a myriad of physiological, psychological, and other utilitarian benefits which can be easily accessed through a simple process of appreciation and conscious breathing, among other things.
    Learning to access these higher states of being is quite simple these days and can be quickly accomplished using the latest technology in heart rate variability biofeedback equipment.
    If you are interested in knowing more about heart rate variability or would like to receive some physiological coherence training, please get in touch!

    Mark Vorkoeper

    Perth, Western Australia

    Sources on Physiological Coherence
    McCraty & Tominsino (2004). Heart Rhythm Coherence Feedback: A New Tool for Stress Reduction, Rehabilitation, and Performance Enhancement. HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath Boulder Creek, California, USA
    McCraty R (1998). The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress,emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behaverial Science, Vol 33, Number 2 pp151-170
    Lipsenthal (2004). Heart Rate Variability and Emotional Shifting: Powerful Tools for Reducing Cardiovascular Risk. Holistic Primary Care, Vol. 5, NO. 4.
    Vislocky & Leslie (2005). Efficacy and Implementation of HeartMath Instruction in College Readiness Program: Improving Students’ Mathematics Performance and Learning. University of Cincinnati Clermont College.
    McCraty et al (1999). Impact of the HeartMath Self-Management Skills Program on Physiological and Psychological Stress in Police Officers. HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 99-075.
    McCRATY, ATKINSON,& BRADLEY (2004). Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 1. The Surprising Role of the Heart. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 10, Number 1, 2004, pp. 133–143
    MCCRATY, ATKINSON, & BRADLEY (2004) Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 2. A System-Wide Process? THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
    Volume 10, Number 2, 2004, pp. 325–336