20 Reasons To Practice Heart Rhythm Meditation

by Asatar Bair on July 13, 2010

These days, meditation is (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. Everyone pretty much agrees that you should do it, and that it will be good for you. But it’s very important to get into the details, because this will motivate you to actually do it. How much time do you need to set aside? Well, meditation is like food. Any amount will help you when you’re starving. But 20 minutes a day will provide you with the benefits described in this post.

There are also different kinds of meditation, with different effects on the body, mind, heart, and soul. (Here’s a post on the importance of some of these differences, and why Heart Rhythm Meditation is ideal for most people practicing meditation today.)

  1. Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can be an issue even for young, active people. For those who are overweight, or are suffering from the effects of a diet high in salt and fat (like most of us here in the US), blood pressure can easily get too high, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease. One of the key findings of several studies is that slower breathing has a significant impact on blood pressure. In fact, there is a device that uses timed tones to help you slow your breathing. This device is used in the studies I mentioned, found here. Of course, you don’t need a device to slow your breathing: that is exactly what happens in Heart Rhythm Meditation.
  2. Regulate your immune system. Heart Rhythm Meditation seems to have a powerful effect on the overall immune system. Though we do not have studies that document this, we notice the effect from observational reports of our students, and our own experiences. My practice of HRM has helped me through many periods of high stress without illness, even while being exposed to people with infectious conditions. (Illness can also be a valuable learning experience, of course.)
  3. Have more energy. Some kinds of meditation (including HRM) create the right carbon dioxide balance in your body, so that your cells can absorb oxygen. The way you breathe has major implications for the way your body processes oxygen, which has a big impact on your thinking and your energy level.
  4. Create a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. This happens in meditation when the pattern of the heartbeat is regular and wave-like. The heart rate can change quite a bit from beat to beat, which is called Heart Rate Variability. The study of HRV is a rapidly-growing field, and at this point, it is clear that when the HRV is too low, it’s a danger sign for the heart. (Too much HRV is also hard on the heart.) This is discussed in more detail in Energize Your Heart.
  5. Make your heartbeat rhythmic. Related to the point above, the way you breathe has a big effect on your heart rate, soothing arrhythmic patterns in the heart rate, which can be caused by stress. (Not all kinds of meditation, even those that are heart-based, do this, which is why we spend a whole course teaching this breathing technique.)
  6. Tame anxiety. Slow, deep breathing, which is a key part of HRM, is wonderfully effective at regulating anxiety. If you are prone to anxiety, you know it can build up under your radar, then kind of explode all at once. It’s far better to manage your anxiety every day through some slow breathing and concentration on your heart than it is to all of a sudden realize that your anxiety is out of control.
  7. Integrate your experience. Much of our waking time is taking in sensory impressions in the form of our experience. But in order to learn life’s lessons, we must have time to process these experiences, to sort and file, placing in categories what we have learned, or re-evaluating old categorizations. The most difficult of these to understand is the process of identity. Who am I now? Who was I in the past? Who am I becoming? How does this fit in with my understanding of how the world works? These are basic question that concern my identity, that have come up, in one form or another, all my life. I suspect the same is true for you. Meditation is a powerful way of processing experiences and integrating them. The same thing happens during sleep, but it’s a lot less efficient, which is probably why advanced meditators can thrive with very little sleep.
  8. Know who you are. Closely related to the last point, it is of vital importance to know yourself, and meditation is a key method for doing this. Meditation is the most rapid and effective method of self-knowledge that I have ever come across. And meditating on your heart is the best way I have found to meditate, in a lifetime of trying different things. (I was lucky enough to grow up with meditation.)
  9. Discover and appreciate your inner qualities. We do things, we experience things, but what is the common element? What are the qualities you possess that manifest in many different ways? For example, you may have a great sense of honor, which leads you to take an unpopular stance on principle, which then affects your relationship with your community, making people upset with you, perhaps even costing you important opportunities. If you miss the inner quality that led to the outer consequences, you’re missing a lot. But if you can see your sense of honor as a guiding theme in your life, you discover who you are on an essential, inner level, and life makes sense in a whole new way. (This is why we teach a system of archetypes.)
  10. Heal your wounds and resolve your issues. Everybody has long-standing issues that they struggle to resolve. For me, one of them was my parents’ divorce when I was 4, and the resulting sense of instability, to which I responded by a combination of withdrawal into an inner world, repression, and development of self-reliance. The point is, everyone has one or more issues, and these are connected to times when we were wounded, and the ways in which we responded to the pain of loss, disappointment, separation, and so on. Meditation is the most rapid way of understanding and resolving these issues. And it’s particularly interesting that the understanding you need is not as detailed as you might think. Unlike traditional talk-based therapy, you don’t need to go over and over the same ground, talking about issues endlessly. You need to identify the pain, move into it, experience it, and allow the pain to move and transform into other emotions. It may come up again: you do the same thing. Feel it and deepen it. Working in this way, you resolve issues in a fraction of the time that you could through therapy or any other cognitive-based approach.
  11. Develop your inner qualities. Much of what I’ve said so far is about the past. A whole other set of uses of meditation is about the future. Each of us has a sense of who we’d like to be. Many of us have a sense of self-disgust, a feeling of being fed-up with the way we are now, which is a form of longing for the self we know we can become. This is why we teach a framework for understanding what are different inner qualities, and a set of spiritual practices to bring out the qualities, such as working with the elements, the energy centers, the egos, or with sound practices.
  12. Connect with other people. It may seem odd that sitting quietly by yourself would be a good way of connecting with others. But recall that most of our issues with other people have to do with our own self-imposed limitations. We can’t forgive what someone has done. We are hurt and can’t heal from it. We feel disrespected. We cannot absorb and assimilate the energy that someone else is giving us, because it is in the form of criticism or negativity. Meditation is a great way to dissolve the inner turmoil that separates us from other people.
  13. Accomplish goals. Like the point above, it may seem contrary to think sitting still and ‘doing nothing’ will help accomplish a goal. But meditation is the ideal time to think deeply about what you seek to accomplish, and feel the process deeply, from your desire to achieve it to your feelings about the process itself. Meditation charges your inner battery, allowing you to better withstand the challenges that are part of doing anything difficult.
  14. Prioritize. One of the most difficult things to figure out is how we spend our time, and is it in line with what we say are our priorities? It is often the case that we spend copious amounts of time on unimportant things, leaving vitally important things starved for our attention. Meditation is a time when that which is truly important can become clear.
  15. Understand complex situations. The world is full of complex situations that we must navigate, from relationships with family, colleagues, companies, or in the politics the emerge in different groups, or within ourselves in terms of our goals and aspirations. Meditation is an ideal space to understand complexity and to thrive in complicated environments.
  16. Enlarge your sense of reality. Meditation is a way to experience the true nature of the universe. We cannot truly understand ourselves without understanding the nature of reality. Life is one, but we cannot see it, because we are so intoxicated with our own little corner of life. A key reason to meditate is to discover the larger reality that we miss when we are so caught up in our own drama.
  17. Communicate with God. As the experience of unity is repeated, it opens and deepens into a two-way communication. The being of the universe is God, by whatever name we choose to the One Being: God, Brahma, Dieu, Allah, the Void, Energy, or any other name. We long to realize that God is within us, to hear the voice of God, and then to speak in the voice of God ourselves.
  18. Discover your unique purpose in life. It is only with the experience of unity that we can truly understand how to use our unique gifts to contribute to the unfolding experience of the One Being.
  19. Develop a sense of spiritual guidance, a way of communicating with the guiding spirit behind all life, that guides all of life toward its greatest growth and fulfillment, much like the sense the body has which allows your body to grow from a single cell to a fully-functional organism.
  20. To change the world. Meditation is about changing your inner world, in order to build the world of peace and love that we all know is possible. Without that sense of peace within, there is no way to create it in life. But with that sense, we can have a much greater influence on the world than we ever thought possible.

So these are my 20 reasons to meditate. I hope you found this article useful. If you did, please consider sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.

What are your reasons to get into meditation or to continue your practice?

{ 16 comments }

Bud Weiss July 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I appreciate much of what you have shared here especially the small piece about the importance of CO2. However, stressing the idea of deep breathing counters this sadly.. While you are doing HRM as in many different types of Yoga breating, you will in fact reduce your tidal volume of air breathed and will feel better. However with the emphasis on deep breathing, afterwards, you will be over breathing. This will lead in many instances to poorer health as the person will be putting out more CO2 and thus because of the Bohr relationship between CO2 and O2, less distribution of O2 will take place to the cells and tissues. Moreover, you do not stress the importance of breathing both in and out only through the nose which has been known for centuries to be the healthy way to breath as the nose does a myriad of things to assist us properly in breathing including mixing NO2 with the air breathed in due to the sinuses producing NO2 regularly. See http://www.buteykonyc.com/Resources.html where I have some of the important ways in which nasal breathing helps us.

Finally, your comments about salt are not well founded. Please get a copy of Dr. David Brownstein’s book “Salt Your Way to Health.” In fact, for nearly all people including most of those with hypertension, Low salt diets are dangerous and have never been proven to be significantly effective in lowering blood pressure. Whereas the use of good sea salt can alter all of that and much more including helping to regulate breathing. None of the “Low Salt” studies were done with sea salt but rather with toxic table type salt. Even then, there was little significance to the low salt diets and for many a low salt diet can kill. This is happening quite a bit with young athletes and those drinking a lot of water attempting to adequately hydrate without replacing their electrolytes.

Please consider what I have said. I have read your book and met you at Howie’s training and sent you messages which I don’t seem to have received responses from, though I may have lost them. I am in hopes of receiving a note back from you. Be well, Bud Weiss

Asatar Bair July 13, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Bud,
Thank you so much for your very detailed and interesting comment.
I’m glad you identified that the method of Heart Rhythm Meditation (stressing full, deep, rhythmic breathing) is just about as far as you could possibly get from the Buteyko method, which stresses shallow, tightly controlled breathing.
Having very little direct experience with that method, I cannot comment much on its effects.
What I can speak to is the incredible health benefits I have personally received from the full, deep, rhythmic breathing that I have done for years with HRM. I know that when my breath gets tight and shallow, I tend to feel constrained emotionally and physically.
Thanks for the reference re: salt! I like that, because I like salty foods, and feeling better about consuming sea salt is nice.
Asatar

Roxanna L Rutter July 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I find this discussion most interesting and inspiring ~ inspiring, in that, it motivates me to do further research, both academic and phenomenological.
As both a practitioner of yoga and HRM, I would like to report on a couple personal ‘findings’.
1) In Kundalini yoga ~ while I absolutely loved the practice (and still do practice some), the breath of Fire, done very fast for 2-3 minutes, created a physical, emotional, and spiritual feeling of
not being grounded. Unfortunately, it also exacerbated throat problems.
2) HRM ~ especially the breaths associated with 4 Elements and the Square Breath ground me,
create a sense of strength and power, and my health has improved 10fold!!
In a decade, i have never felt better. When I started HRM regularly, my health was extremely unstable. Now, i have a base, a foundation that I can rely upon. This creates, among other things, greater self-confidence, sel-trust, and clarity of direction.

I look forward to a continuation of our discussion.

Many Blessings,
Roxanna

Asatar Bair July 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Hi Roxanna, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I love hearing about your experiences. -Asatar

Walter July 15, 2010 at 6:48 am

Many times I have tried to meditate but I cannot stop the agitation of my mind. I have learned the many benefits of meditation yet I cannot partake on it. Maybe I need to learn to still my thoughts. :-)

Asatar Bair July 15, 2010 at 7:07 am

Hi Walter,
When your body is still, and your breath is slow, deep, full, and rhythmic, your thoughts will slow and become calm. The key is to get the basics of posture and breathing down. Join our free weekly class (by becoming a subscriber) and I’ll be happy to show you how to do it.
Thanks for your comment!
-Asatar

Tim Sippola July 16, 2010 at 12:53 am

Hi, Asatar

Thanks for your list — a great motivator and educational as well! I am presently teaching a class on the enhancement of intuitive capacity built around the practice of HRM, so I would add intuition enhancement to your list as another reason for developing a practice — it can really make a difference for a number of reasons, some of which are on your list already. I would like to add something of value to this conversation so I offer my thoughts and observations on HRM as my preferred method of enhancing intuition.

I see intuition as a natural capacity in all of us, a way of knowing without knowing through our physical senses, but through our proverbial “sixth sense.” However, most of us function intuitively at a level far beneath our potential because most of us carry around feelings from childhood and later that we’ve repressed because they were so unpleasant that we feared they would overwhelm us or worse. I believe the following process accounts for at least a part of why people do not regularly experience intuition to anywhere near the level of their potential:

All unpleasant feelings are predominantly stress hormone-based. When we generate fear (or any other stress hormone-based feeling) about our original stress hormone-based feeling, we are dumping more stress hormones in on top of the original stress hormones, adding to the unpleasantness, which stirs even more fear of overwhelm, etc., in a vicious circle of escalating stress hormone levels. Stress hormones cause striated muscle (muscle that can be purposely flexed or tensed) to involuntarily tense, which leads to restriction of breathing and shallower breathing as we take the path of least resistance, refraining from breathing against the increasing tension in the muscles surrounding our lungs. This breath restriction has the effect of reducing the amount of our available energy, which is tied up in maintaining the tension of the vicious self-perpetuating circle of generating unpleasant feelings about our unpleasant feelings. In turn this also lowers oxygen levels which reduces our awareness of our unpleasant feelings (generally replacing it with an awareness of tension, to which we will eventually habituate), such that fearing we’ll be overwhelmed by our feelings paradoxically seems to help stop them from becoming overwhelming, but does reinforce us for/”trains” us to fear them.

I believe we are born with the capacity to feel all feelings, that all feelings ultimately come from caring, and all have the capacity to expand our capacity for compassion. To the extent I am willing to feel all of my feelings I will be able to relate to others. But if you are feeling a feeling I am trying to block from my awareness, or pretend I don’t have, my fear or resentment of you for reminding me of what I want to hide from myself will make me want to avoid you or attack you, and will certainly block my compassion. I believe there is no such thing as a “bad” feeling, only less informed and more informed ways of acting on them and handling them. Training ourselves to fear awareness of certain of our feelings, which are as much a part of our emotional selves as our knees and elbows are a part of our physical selves, creates inherent distrust in ourselves and our design. If I were to suggest getting rid of knees and elbows, people would think I was crazy, but if I advocated getting rid of anger or self-pity, many people might be eager to listen. To me my feelings are as much a part of my emotional self, as my knees and elbows are a part of my physical self. How can I trust myself if I believe there is a part of me I need to block from my awareness? How do I feel full true self-esteem if I believe there is some part of me that is “evil,” shouldn’t be there?

Here’s the punchline: There is a whole body of research on “motivated perception” indicating how our motivations (e.g., the desire to not feel certain unpleasant emotions) selectively determine what we do and don’t perceive, what we allow into our awareness. If intuition is a capacity that brings us information that might contain feelings we fear feeling, then it is safer to selectively block intuitive awareness than to allow it free rein. I find HRM, because it expands my awareness of all feelings that have been blocked, both unpleasant and pleasant, but simultaneously provides me with the capacity/energy to experience those feelings confidently in a consciousness of unconditionally loving support, gradually but consistently allows me to dissolve my fear of feeling all feelings, thus restoring my willingness to perceive intuitively.

I am a psychologist with a thirty year focused interest in discerning the specific elements involved in regaining use of unrealized intuitive capacity. I believe HRM to be the tool which represents the culmination of my search for a method which brings together so many if not all of the elements I’d come to believe were crucial in understanding and actualizing our intuition. The more I explore HRM, the more my intuition and my energy to act upon it for the benefit of humanity expand. I believe the solutions for the growing challenges we face as a global community will be attained through keen awareness of information, insight, and inspiration afforded by Heart Rhythm Meditation, “the meditation for our time.”

Thanks for the forum

Tim

Asatar Bair July 16, 2010 at 4:41 am

Wow, thank you for your detailed and insightful comment, Tim! I like where you say HRM is both pleasant and unpleasant. And your discussion of the connection between feeling your emotions and accessing your intuition is really important. I think our readers would love to hear more about how you use HRM and your intuition in your work as a psychologist. Would you be willing to be interviewed? Thanks again for the wisdom you’ve provided here. -Asatar

Andree Morgan July 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Great article Asatar. 20 very good reasons.
Thanks also Tim, that was indeed a great explanation for how stress /blocked feelings can live in our body and keep expanding. The vicious cycle of avoidance makes sense, with fear building on fear so we get a long way away from the truth of our lives.

Asatar Bair July 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

Thanks for your comment, Andree!

Tim Sippola July 17, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I’d be happy to be interviewed. Thanks for asking. Let me know how that would happen.

Tim

Puran Bair July 19, 2010 at 4:46 am

Dear Bud Weiss,
Thank you for the warnings about over-breathing, which results in hypocapnia (low CO2). We have been monitoring tidal CO2 for several years and I’m happy to say that with Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM), a concentration of CO2 of 40 mm Hg is easily maintained. The reason why the deep breathing we teach in HRM does not lead to hypocapnia is because we also breathe slowly, at 4 or less breaths per minute.
I appreciate the research that Buteyko practitioners have contributed about hypocapnia, however the Buteyko method is not the optimum way to reduce hypocapnia and additionally has the undesirable side-effect of promoting dissociation. Since asthma is often triggered by an emotional disturbance, dissociation could aggravate the condition, not resolve it. HRM is a superior treatment for all respiratory and cardiac conditions.
We do, of course, emphasize breathing through the nostrils, which has many benefits, as you rightly point out. Your website has a treasure of information about hypocapnia and nasal breathing. We do recognize through that there are other reasons for sometimes breathing through the mouth, either on inhale, exhale or both. These are spiritual practices designed to stimulate the subtle energies of the universe that ride on the breath. There are situations when it is necessary to give up the benefits of humidification and NO2 of nasal breathing in favor of the enriched subtle energies that also have great benefit on physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Thank you for contributing to this blog; you are a renowned researcher with a deep concern for the state of health care. Blessings on your work, Puran

Vakil July 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

Such a great blog post and such interesting comments after. I have been practicing HRM for about 4 years now and teaching it for about 3. As a practitioner I find that HRM is the best way for me to start my day. I connect with my intuitions and then start my day’s activities right there. I love how I can flow out of a 20 min meditation and into the day’s work. As an instructor of HRM I have found my students to be universally satisfied, if not blown away, by the techniques. Many people have simply forgotten how to breathe and when I work with people with High Blood Pressure, they have told me that by re-learning how to breathe they are lowing their BP and becoming centered. Not a bad result. The respirate product mentioned in the original blog post is a great example of the connection between this type of slow, rhythmic breathing and reduced BP. I also have found my skin tone to be much nicer from my full breath meditations. There’s a glow to my face that is really nice. I have recognized the potential to over-breathe and get to a hyperventilated state so that is something to watch for. However, in a typical meditation class where I’m guiding people along, there’s rarely been a problem with that. Maybe on another post we can discuss how the breath benefits us spiritually! Peace, love, truth and joy to the universe!

Asatar Bair July 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Hi Vakil, thank you for your thoughts on how HRM has worked for you and your students. It’s great that you’re having so much success teaching! -Asatar

Jim July 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

I have practiced meditation many years back but have lots of problem such as sleepy, lost forcus and really feel the benefit. Then I bought StressEraser device for over $200.00 and start HRM practice with deep breath for many years. I can feel the benefit with relax. Then I thought this device is good but too expensive. I looked around internet. There are more of these kind of devices but all cost over $100.00. I am IT professional and start to program the application in Android and IPhone use back camera to detect the heart pulse and draw HRV curve plus added most peaceful and smooth sound (Tibetan bell sound) and also added evaluation algorithm to calculate your practice point or coherence ratio. It also have timer for you to set. I put the app in the Google Play store and got very good review. The app name called Stress Releaser with free version called Stress Releaser Lite. I thought with everyone now days have smartphone. With this application, you can practice the HRM anytime anywhere. You see the your practice points and feel the benefits.

Asatar Bair July 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Dear Jim,
Thank you for your comment. I like the idea of your app! I will look for it for my phone.
Of course, we would like to get to the place where an app is not necessary for us to practice meditation, but for some, an app can be a helpful learning device.
warm regards,
Asatar

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: