The Effects of Heart Rhythm Meditation on Vagal Tone and Well-being: A Mixed Methods Research Study

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2024 Apr 12. doi: 10.1007/s10484-024-09639-0. Online ahead of print.


Many studies have examined the effects of meditation practice focused on the normal breath on vagal tone with mixed results. Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM) is a unique meditation form that engages in the deep slow full breath, and puts the focus of attention on the heart. This form of breathing likely stimulates the vagus nerve with greater intensity. The purpose of this study was (a) to examine how the practice of HRM affects vagal activity as measured by heart rate variability (HRV); and (b) to examine how it affects participants’ well-being. 74 participants signed consent agreeing to: (a) take a six-week course to learn the practice of HRM; (b) engage in a daily practice for 10 weeks; (c) have their heart rate variability read through ECG technology and to take two validated well-being instruments at the beginning and end of the 10 weeks; and (d) participate in a focus group interview examining their perceptions of how the practice affected their well-being. 48 participants completed the study. Quantitative findings show the effect of the practice of HRM approached significance for multiple measures of HRV and vagal tone. An increase in well-being scores for those who did the meditation more than 10-minutes per day did meet statistical significance. Qualitative data indicate: (a) the positive effects of HRM on stress and well-being; (b) the development of a more expanded sense of self; and (c) an increased awareness of the interconnection of the body-heart-emotions and HRM’s role in emotion regulation.

PMID:38605265 | DOI:10.1007/s10484-024-09639-0