Yoga masters and scientists know it, but if you find it difficult to breathe easy, you may need to ease your breathing. It turns out that by moderating your breathing patterns so that your exhalations are long and regular, you can activate the part of your nervous system (the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s called) that allows you to stay calm, relaxed, and stress-free.
Unfortunately, most people gobble up and spit out air without any thought. That’s where the Helicor StressEaser comes in. It’s a battery-powered biofeedback gadget that helps you train your body to breath in such a way that literally blows out the stress.
I got my hands on one of these and took it through the wringer. Click the jump to see the full review…
The StressEraser is a biofeedback device. That is, by showing you how usually-unconscious internal processes work, it allows you to focus on them and exert some control. With a bit of practice, you are able to exercise more and more control. With a lot of practice, slow, relaxing breathing should be effortless.
The device is simple enough to get going — it even thankfully comes with the requisite pair of AAA batteries. Just pop them in, turn it on, and your ready to go.
The top of the device flips up just enough for you to slip your index finger under the flap. After a couple of seconds, the gadget picks up on your pulse rate and it’s time to breathe. As you breathe in and out, the LCD begins to map your breathing patterns as a series of waves–the line climbs when you’re inhaling and falls when you exhale.
Here’s where it gets tricky: Spaced throughout the graph in regular intervals are a series of tiny triangles. When a new triangle appears, you are to breath out. You are then graded on how successful each breath is. With a relaxed, slow, and calm exhalation, you can earn up to three points. If you are a bit more frantic, you’ll get fewer. The goal is to accumulate at least 30 points each time you use the device during the day, and at least 100 if you use it before bed.
The idea is simple: With enough calm-inducing exhalations, you should be ready to cool off or hit the hay. No more worried minds or frantic heartbeats.
The device actually does work as advertised — it just takes a lot of patience. Collecting 30 points can take 5 to 10 minutes, and 100 can take as long as half an hour. Perhaps this is a bit excessive, but getting it over with quickly served as a pretty strong motivation for doing it right.
It definitely helps that they’ve turned it into a game of sorts–albeit one of the most frustrating and repetitive ones out there. It sort of reminds me of Brain Age for the Nintendo DS — keep practicing every day and you should find yourself smarter/breathing easier. The thing is–you really do have to stick with it. Unfortunately, there’s a paradox of sorts: The type of calm, patient person who might be able to handle using this every day is the type of person who is least likely to need it. And at $299, that’s a hefty price to pay if it ends up in the back of a drawer. Thank goodness for the free 30 day trial — you’ll probably need half that much time to figure out if it’s for you.