HeartMath Inner Balance Lightning Sensor
Made for iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad (4th generation and newer), iPad mini, iPod touch (5th generation). Sensors available in 30-pin and Lightning connectors. Android devices in development.
I’m hardly the kind of fellow who could be accused of being a new-age sensitive guy. I regularly scoff at anything healthy at the grocery store, looking instead for convenient and comfortable food. I even have a paperweight with an old Mark Twain quote on exercise: “Whenever I get the urge, I lay down until it passes.” And, I’m in the first paragraph and already, I’m digressing…
As I near the magic age of 60, I suffer from moderately elevated blood pressure (who knew?), acid reflux disease (mostly due to my rather “rotund” physique), and occasional panic attacks behind the wheel (since resolved—turned out to be too much caffeine). The best quick remedy I discovered for all three of these problems turned out to be the same: controlled breathing.
Controlled breathing is also a great thing to do to alleviate stress, get the heart rate and blood pressure down, and just revel in the feeling of well-being that getting yourself into this state provides. This is not an instrument to promote relaxation. To the contrary, as the HeartMath folks say, it helps you change how you react to stress, and helps you gain insights into your shifting moods.
Problem is, most of you, dear readers, probably can’t effectively control your breathing, and that’s where this review comes in.
The folks at HeartMath have developed a number of solutions to achieve what they call “personal coherence.” As they say on their website:
Logical connectedness, internal order, or harmony among the components of a system. This term can also refer to the tendency toward increased order in the informational content of a system or in the information flow between systems. In physics, two or more waveforms that are phase-locked together (so that their energy is constructive) are described as coherent. Coherence can also be attributed to a single waveform, in which case it denotes an ordered or constructive distribution of power content. Recently, there has been a growing scientific interest in coherence in living systems. When a system is coherent, virtually no energy is wasted, because of the internal synchronization among the parts. In organizations, increased coherence enables the emergence of new levels of creativity, cooperation, productivity, and quality at all levels.
Personal coherence tools start with the rather costly $129 HeartMath Inner Balance system, which includes a sensor that gently clips to your earlobe, and a free IOS app. The sensor is available in both 30-pin and Lightning configuration for all IOS devices. See illustration at the top of this article.
Download and install the free Inner Balance app from the IOS Store. Plug the Inner Balance sensor into your IOS device, launch the app, clip the Inner Balance sensor to your earlobe, and follow the directions on the screen. One of the first things you need to do is set your mood. In other words, how do you feel at the moment you want to start a session. Tap the figure that most closely matches how you believe what mood you are in.
Basically, you are directed to breathe in and out, while matching the pattern shown on an expanding and contracting circle (see below). Your heart rate is displayed above the circle. Blocks surround the circle, showing your elapsed time.
At any time during your exercise, you can swipe your finger across the screen to see another coherence screens, an “inspiration” screen (you can add one of your own photos to view as you are doing your coherence training), as well as a set of analytic screens that show your progress with a group of charts and graphs (it takes two screens on an iPhone to view the charts and graphs; only one screen on an iPad). The screen below is displayed when you end your session. These particular graphs aren’t exactly my best work, as I was trying to get screen shots while doing the breathing exercises.
Your goal is to work toward maintaining coherence, blending heart, breathing, and remaining in that state for as long as you can. “Awards” are given for time spent in coherence, which can be automatically emailed to you. As you achieve longer periods of coherence, pleasing tones are generated to let you know where you are on the coherence curve.
This is just one part of the total program promoted by HeartMath. Their website explains that the five steps to inner balance are:
- Acknowledge your mood – Before running the Inner Balance app, you need to set your perceived mood in one of eight choices, from joyfully happy to really angry. This helps calibrate the app to better help you find your coherence.
- Follow your goals – As you progress, you are encouraged to set goals for length of each session, coherence levels, and so on.
- Track your progress – As with so many things, you need to be able to see how you are progressing in your sessions.
- Review it – When you complete a session, you are afforded the opportunity to review the results of the session you just completed, or any other.
- Write about it – A journal is provided to let you record your goals, feelings, accomplishments, or anything else you can think of that relates to the session so you can refer to it later.
There is even a social aspect to Inner Balance, with the recently added HeartCloud. Use HeartCloud to sync all of your session data and track activity, history, journaling, notifications, awards, access to advanced training.
HeartMath offers more advanced products such as the $199 emWave2, which comes with a portable device, which you use to get into coherence. You then download the results to the emWave desktop software. Their top-end product, the $299 emWavePro, is designed for multiple users in a clinical or family setting. It offers more interesting graphics and other features, but needs to run from a desktop computer.
The HeartMath website has a number of really useful instructional videos that give you a really good overview of what to do and why you want to do it.
I must say that I was pretty skeptical when I started with this, thinking back to the scary times of all that new age stuff that started in the 1970s. The HeartMath Inner Balance system is a really straightforward product that minimizes a lot of the new age stuff that frankly, would have scared me off. At the same time, the HeartMath website shows a number of tools to assist in meditation and other new age activities. More practical applications are also available from HeartMath, including emotional eating, children and parenting, and more. You can set up a training regimen that most suits you.
The Inner Balance app really does put you in a good place, and helps teach you how to remain in that good place, and even how to jump into said good place when you really need to. Ultimately, extended training will allow you to get into coherence whether you have the device handy or not.
In the best possible endorsement, I’m buying my own sensor (HeartMath sent me a demo unit which they want back), and plan to use it regularly. I would have given this product a rating of 9, if it weren’t for the fact that the Inner Balance sensor was so expensive.
MyMac.com Review Rating: 8 out of 10