Finding Your Optimal Breath per Minute Rate

Optimal Breathing for
Stress Management and
Improved Performance
for University Students
UUCCC Conference
Park City, UT
October 28, 2011
Barbara Morrell, PhD, Maureen Rice, PhD, Dianne
Nielsen, PhD, Loren Brown
Brigham Young University
Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback
• Cutting edge of biofeedback
– Interactive Programs: Need less guidance to use
– Less training of counselors to use effectively
• HRV Interactive BiofeedbackPrograms:
– emWave Destop: Heart Math--Optimal Breathing
– Dual Drive: runs on emWave or Relaxing Rhythms
– Relaxing Rhythms:
Wild Divine
Our Stress Response and
Relaxation Response
• Stress Management is like learning to drive.
• Our Stress Response, the Sympathetic branch
(SNS) of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS),
is like a gas pedal revving up our mind & body
in reaction to physical danger or stress
• Our Relaxation Response, the Parasympathetic
Nervous System (PSNS), is like a brake which
calms us down when we’re speeding out of
control from stress
Activating our Relaxation Response
• Our gas pedal is automatic, often going
from 0 to 60 in an instant in response to
• Stress Management involves
– Training ourselves to put on the brake
(PSNS), as needed, just as in driving a car
– Deep relaxation/meditation: Bringing the
car to a stop
– “Tapping” the brake proactively or in
response to stress throughout the day
Breathing as a Brake
For each of us there is an optimal number of breaths per minute (BPM) between
4.5 and 7 BPM which creates Autonomic Balance by synchronizing our Sympathetic
Nervous System (gas pedal) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (brake)
Autonomic Balance helps us calm down, achieve optimal performance, and health
We can use the emWave Desktop biofeedback program to estimate our
individual Optimal BPM
Practicing Optimal Breathing can
– Help us learn to brake on demand (activate the relaxation response)
– Over time increase Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
• Beat to beat changes in Heart Rate (HR)
– HR should speed up on inhalation and
slow down on exhalation
• HRV is decreased by shallow, fast breathing and
negative thoughts and emotions (disordered and
irregular rhythm)
• HRV training increases Vagal tone and the Baroreflex,
which are involved in the ability of the heart to
respond to stress
Why Emphasize Heart Rate Variability and
Optimal Breathing?
• Greater impact on heart health and wellness
than relaxation alone
• HRV and Health
– High HRV= heart health
– Low HRV = greatest predictor of mortality
– Also associated with SIDS in infants
emWave Desktop
•Can be used with EZ-Air
Breath Pacer to
determine Optimal BPM
•Techniques to help create
an optimal state in which
the heart, mind and
emotions are operating
in-sync and balanced.
•Games (quite juvenile)
Dual Drive: Versions to run with
emWave or Relaxing Rhythms
•Challenging racing or simple
non-game graph training.
•Fun off-road racing. Drive
7cars through 9 detailed
•Power your engine, clear the
dark fog and win by relaxing
and feeling good.
Relaxing Rhythms:
Formerly Wild Divine
•Uses HRV and GSR biofeedback
•A multi-dimensional approach
that includes
oGuided breathing and
meditation exercises
oGames you win by being
in meditative state
EZ-Air Breath Pacer
•Free for 30 Days
•$20 for two
Optimal Breathing Resources
Optimal BPM Breath-Sync music cd:
– Inhale as notes go higher and exhale as they go (or vice versa).
– You can add pauses by stopping before it reaches the highest or lowest
EZ-air computer breath pacer: Free for 30 days (no payment information up
– Set the exhalation longer than the inhalation, for optimum benefit
Smart phone apps:
– Android Free app
– iPhone Free app
Breathe to the clock or metronome:
– 6.0 BPM: inhale on even numbers, exhale on odd numbers
Coming Soon to our Website:
Handout Designs
Easy to read tabs
and text boxes
help students
learn more about
Links to other websites,
podcasts, and YouTube
videos offer additional
8 Relaxation Techniques
Additional Stress
Management Skills / Tips

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