Gary Monk on Tracking HRV for Relaxation and Focus

In this video from the always great Meetup of the London Quantified Self group, Gary Monk describes his detailed relaxation and focus experiments using continuous HRV measurement with HeartMath’s Inner Balance sensor in the course of his normal daily life.

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5 Responses to Gary Monk on Tracking HRV for Relaxation and Focus

  1. Matt says:

    He’s got something a bit wrong here. HRVC training isn’t relaxation training, it’s about creating a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, so the achieved state might be described as calm alertness.

    Most people most of the time will be in a state where the sympathetic nervous system is dominant and thus after HRVC training people feel comparatively more relaxed but this is probably more correctly a lessening of stress.

    If someone were in a state of deep relaxation say they’d had a massage or a session in a floatation tank and then did a session of HRVC they wouldn’t feel less relaxed after it than they were, in fact they would feel more alert and more able to perform some kind of task.

    Put simply if you did some kind of breathing where the out breath lasted longer than the in breath you would feel more relaxed than if you did HRVC but your coherence would be lower.

    HRVC is hugely beneficial and enables to work well with lessened stress but it shouldn’t be confused with relaxation training.

    • Gary Monk says:

      Hey Matt,
      Thanks for this – a little delayed as I cam across it by chance. Thanks for the clarification. My personal goal in the experiment was to become more relaxed but actually your second paragraph sums it up for me – it was around stress reduction via parasympathetic activation. I may not have gone into detail but the focused alertness was important to me as one of the domains in which I was trying to increase my HRV was the work one – so I needed to be performing as well as relaxing :-)

  2. JED Durango says:

    Thanks, Gary.
    I’ve been using various HeartMath tools since 2006, and HRV training has been immensely helpful in managing anxiety and promoting focus. I own the Inner Balance system Gary speaks of, useful enough, though I recommend looking at HeartMath’s other tools for QS endeavors: the emWave 2 portable, and emWave Pro for laptop or desktop. All of these cam provide more detailed data, via software interface. The emWave 2 unit is quite small, and will fit easily in a shirt pocket, with ear clip sensor as Gary shows. It can be set to chime when coherence is detected, and continues to chime if sustained. This makes it simple to sustain the state of parasympathetic activation which is the target. I wear one at work, in a factory, doing technical assembly. The session data is stored for later retrieval, via included software.

    • Gary Monk says:

      Hey Jed,
      Sure thing – just picked this up but very belatedly. Interesting experience and thanks for the feedback! I actually had the emWave 2 – I personally preferred the iPhone interface and it seemed to work better for the experiment. Hope all is going well!

  3. Tom Beckman says:

    You can get a free PDF of the HeartMath Institute’s new Science of the Heart, Volume 2 research monograph at:

    There’s also a free two-hour HRV overview course at:


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