Heart rate variability (HRV) is emerging as a key indicator of wellbeing, with a high level of variability indicating good functioning of the respiratory, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory and autonomic nervous systems.
Although all types of deliberately slow breathing have an effect on HRV, research has suggested that breathing continuously at a rate of 6 breaths per minute over a period of 5-10 minutes (and ideally 15) results in the greatest level of variability.
To start with it will be most effective to use a metronome or meditation timer app to ensure the count (inhaling for 6 seconds, exhaling for 6 seconds with no retention or suspension of the breath) remains steady. Please note, if you are much taller than 6 foot, then you can amend the count for 5 breaths per minute, and likewise, if you are shorter than 5 foot, amend the count for 7 breaths per minute.
Try it Yourself
Find a comfortable position, this is our favourite;
Set the timer or metronome to chime every 6 seconds, for a total time of 15 minutes.
Begin breathing so that your inhale lasts the full length of the 6 seconds, as soon as you hear the chime exhale for the full 6 seconds. At first deliberate effort will be required to maintain the count, although this will settle.