Heart Rhythm Meditation
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Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM) is a method of meditation that has been expanded and developed by Puran Bair and Susanna Bair of the Institute for Applied Meditation. The method was described in the 1998 book Living from the Heart, by Puran Bair (2nd Edition Published in 2009) and in the 2007 book Energize Your Heart in 4 Dimensions, by Puran and Susanna Bair.
All meditation methods are effective in reducing stress, but they do so in different ways. The method of HRM involves conscious breathing, use of the full lung capacity, a concentration on the heart (both the physical heart and the emotional or poetic heart) and an intervention in the breath to make it rhythmic, through the coordination of the breath and heartbeat. Several different rhythmic patterns are used, including making the length of the inhale even with the length of the exhale, for example, 8 beats in, 8 beats out; this is called “The Swinging Breath”. Another pattern involves a longer holding of the breath, so that the holding period equals the breathing period, for example, 8 beats in, 16 beats hold, 8 beats out; this is called “The Square Breath”. This square breath has a great stabiliizing quality and is very helpful for anxiety or feelings of panic. The method of HRM never involves holding the breath after an exhalation, only after an inhalation.
Variations of the Square Breath
Because of its ancient history, other interpretations abound, but these other variations may not center on the heart or the heartbeat. For example, call-in radio personality Dr. Joy Browne describes a practice she calls 'square breathing' in a chapter of her recent book Getting Unstuck. Dr. Browne does not use the heartbeat, but counts seconds. With this method, for each breathing element (in, out, hold), one can use any count. Dr. Browne's square breathing is defined as N seconds in, N seconds hold, N seconds out, ending with N seconds hold. This practice is never done within HRM, for it is incompatible with the full breath. The average breath rate is 16 times a minute, which approximates a rhythm of 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out. The example of 8 seconds per element results in 2 breaths per minute. While possible for veteran practitioners, most beginners would have great difficulty achieving this. Beginners can start with an easy 2 seconds per element, resulting in 8 breaths per minute. The number of seconds per element can then be increased gradually with practice.