Practice “Coherent Breathing” to place your heart, lungs, and circulation into a state of coherence and calm your body.

The perfect breathing rhythm, often called “Coherent Breathing,” occurs when both the length of respirations and total breaths per minute are locked into a symmetry: 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales. This works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute, for a total of about 5.5 liters of air.

“Coherent Breathing” is a calming practice for the body and mind. It increases blood flow to the brain and causes the systems in the body to enter a state of coherence. This is when the functions of the heart, circulation, and nervous system are coordinated to peak efficiency. This is a basic but essential technique, and James Nestor recognized it as one of the most important discoveries of his book. He urges people to practice it as often as possible.  

Doctors use this slow breathing pattern (it’s also known as “Resonant Breathing”) on patients with anxiety and depression. The results are profound, even when practiced for just five to ten minutes a day.

For those who like to pray or recite mantras, there is good news: Researchers found that this style of breathing is invoked by chanting or praying. You can use one of several traditional techniques including the om mani padme hum (Buddhist mantra); Om (the sacred sound of the universe); the Sa Ta Na Ma chant (Kundalini yoga); or the Japanese, African, Native American, or Christian (the rosary) prayer techniques. Each of these requires a 5.5 or 6 second inhale/exhale breathing pattern.

Instructions

  1. Sit up straight, relax the shoulders and belly, and exhale.
  2. Inhale through the nose softly for 5.5 seconds, expanding the belly as air fills the bottom of the lungs.
  3. Without pausing, exhale softly through the nose for 5.5 seconds, bringing the belly in as the lungs empty.
    Each breath should feel like a circle. If you are having difficulty with the timing, several free apps offer timers and visual guides to breathing.
  4. Repeat at least ten times—more if possible.
    Practice this technique anywhere, at any time, as often as you can. You can practice for a few minutes or a few hours. There is no such thing as having too much peak efficiency.

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