Digital Pranayama

Innovations in cardiorespiratory biofeedback

Tasmin sati śvāsa praśvāsayoḥ gati vichchhedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ (PYS II.49)

In that place of stability, by disrupting the [habitual] movement of inhalation and exhalation the life-force energy is liberated and harmonized.

the vagus nerve stretches from butt to brain

The vagus nerve is tenth and longest cranial nerve, wandering its way from the brain to the bowels. It is bidirectional but over 80% of the information it carries is coming from the body to the brain. Current research shows that special forms of conscious breathing can correct vagal imbalances, which are implicated in a variety of diseases from depression to IBS. Pranawave is a form of HRV Biofeedback, a non-invasive way to balance the nervous system and promote optimal wellness and resiliency.

HRV wave shifting from incoherent to coherent
Incoherent cardiac rhythm Coherent cardiac rhythm

Did you know that a healthy heartbeat is not steady like a metronome? The dynamic beat-to-beat changes in heart rate are called Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and give a precise window into the functioning of the nervous system. Patterns of reduced HRV have been associated with disease and psychoemotional stress, while enhanced HRV is associated with thriving and resiliency to stress.

In a healthy and relaxed person, the heartbeat will speed up on the inhale and slow down on the exhale. It's like the nervous system stepping on the gas and brake with each breath. Doctors call this Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), and it is the rhythm of your life-force!

The baroreflex is a built-in feedback system that regulates the body's blood pressure, and it pulses with a harmonic wave about 6 times per minute (though every individual's frequency is subtly unique). It is also related to the natural craniosacral rhythm of spinal fluid. If you slow your breathing to match this barofrequency, the energy of the RSA will resonate the baroreflex system, reinforcing the wave.

Imagine a swing-set on the playground... and how pushing the swing at just the right moment makes it go higher and higher. This is an illustration of the technical term "resonance". By breathing at just the right moment, the life force energy (or prana) will amplify the wave of the baroreflex.

This results in "phase coherence"—a synchronization between the breath, blood pressure and heart rate. The gross physiologic benefit is that optimal gas exchange happens in the lungs, deeply oxygenating your blood with the least amount of effort. However something much more subtle happens as well: enhanced vagal tonicity. It's a sort of "ironing out of wrinkles" in the vagus nerve circuit; parts of the system that are lazy will be stimulated, and parts that may be overreacting become relaxed.

The vagus nerve is important because it touches so many organs in the body, from the brain's amygdalae and insulae (important control center that process negative emotions, pain, appetite, and sexual arousal) to the lungs, heart, digestive tract, and genitals. The latin name translates to "wandering" (related to the word "vagabond").

By consciously placing energy and attention on this adaptive balance point between activation and relaxation (smooth wave pattern of "gas" and "brake"), the body-mind system is gracefully poised to react to life's circumstances in the most appropriate manner (imagine the natural sway of a balancing tight-rope walker). This deep resiliency enourages the body to self-regulate in its own natural wisdom, which is the essence of healing!

HRV biofeedback been shown in recent clinical studies to have beneficial effects on a huge range of diseases, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, irritable bowel, chronic pain, asthma, fibromyalgia, COPD, and heart failure. Prior research also suggests that vagal stimulation may benefit the thyroid gland. In general, it can increase circulation, balance the stress hormones, calm inflammation, and enhance the immune system. Empowering you to respond adaptively to stress will enhance your feelings of well-being and quality of life!

—David Lowenfels, founder/creator of Pranawave™