Downtime is an exercise designed to enhance natural slowing down of your heart during the breathing cycle, typically on the exhale, with the goal of increasing your heart rate variability (HRV). This technique is often referred to as Resonance Breathing or HRVB. This variability of the heart, the speeding up and slowing down of beats per minute (bpm), is a sign of a healthy heart and nervous system that can dynamically adjust as needed. HRV biofeedback has over 20 years of evidence-based research demonstrating the ways it can benefit your health, psychological wellbeing, and performance.
When you practice downtime, Lief will begin vibrating as the heart naturally slows. You can use this indicator to enhance your breathing practice, by beginning to exhale when you first feel the vibration. Comfortably exhale through the end of the vibration, and begin your next inhale naturally. At the top of your inhale, begin your next exhale when you feel the vibration begin. Repeat, allowing the vibration and your breathing to come into rhythm over time, with the vibration aligned with your exhale, and no vibration on the inhale.
Tips for Downtime
- For many people, a 4 second inhale and 6 second exhale can be effective. This is not an absolute rhythm - see what type of elongated breath works best for you!
- No marathon breathing, try medium-sized breaths.
- Focus on "diaphragmatic breathing", inhaling so the stomach goes out, without the shoulders going up.
- Try not to engage additional muscles during breathing cycle, such as the abs, chest, or shoulders.
- Experiment taking in only a half lung full of air.
- Keep your attention in the present moment… this is an ongoing process. As you become aware of your mind wandering to the future or reflecting on the past, bring your focus back to the breath.
- Your posture can be very impactful; try sitting in an upright, alert, but relaxed position… dropping the shoulders slightly back and down.
- It can be helpful to inhale slowly through the nose, and exhale through the mouth, with your lips slightly pursed to engage in “straw” breathing and control the flow of air.
- “No counting, no overthinking” just pay attention to vibration, and follow simple directions.
- Think “Effortless breathing”