Breathing and sitting up straight are two elements that engineer duo Andre Persidsky and Alex Ahlund believe are key to getting a handle on stress and wellbeing. The two life-long meditators and serial entrepreneurs came together to create Prana, a patent-pending clip-on disk that monitors how your posture affects your breath throughout the day.
According to Prana, there is a vast difference between breathing through your belly and chest breathing. The way you sit affects which way you are most likely pulling air into your lungs. Persidsky says this affects everything from back problems to overall stress levels. “Think about when stress is elevated. You are sitting in your office with a million things to do, you slump down, you start with short, shallow breaths. You need to sit up and breath in a way to counteract that,” he says.
He may be on to something. The Journal of Physiology and Pathophysiology posted a study that found major breathing restrictions related to posture problems in neck, shoulder and backs of students who slumped while sitting.
There are already a couple of different devices out there to track breath or posture, but not something that tracks them together. Spire aims to help people relax by tracking breathing patterns and then encouraging users to improve the way they breathe through different methods. The Lumo Lift tracks the way you sit and stand and adds on a coaching element to help you stop slouching. However, Persidsky says you need both to really get the benefit.
“We wanted to offer a truer, more holistic picture of breathing quality, which necessitated factoring in posture, but also providing the capability to distinguish between chest and belly breathing, as most traditions of good breathing (and recent science) emphasize the value of breathing from the abdomen,” he says.
The actual Prana device is a silver disk you clip into your pants. We’re told it should work with most Bluetooth-enabled smartphones. The app will track and provide data as to how you sit and whether you are breathing with your belly or mostly with your chest. It also offers breathing exercises from from all around the world, including yoga pranayama, tai chi, and buteyko. These techniques are organized by time of day such as “Wake Up” or “De-stress.”
It’s one thing to discover how you are breathing and sitting and another to do something about it. Prana’s medical research lead, Dr. Paul Abramson, had been using the 4-7-8 technique on his patients but had a hard time getting them to follow through outside the office. For those unfamiliar, the 4-7-8 technique is a commonly recommended breathing pattern to help you calm down in times of stress. It’s a four count inhale through your nose, 7 count breath hold, 8 count exhale through your mouth.
Prana aims to change how you behave. “It felt misleading to us to just track an isolated breathing signal.”Persidsky and Ahlund came up with similarly gamified techniques found in Spire and Lumo to help people improve their behavior with Prana over time. “Instead of a cup of coffee you can wake yourself up by using the energetic breathing pattern, for instance,” Persidsky points out.
Prana learns how you breath over time and then makes recommendations based on what you are doing specifically. The Prana Clinical Mode offers either you or your health practitioner data on how well (or poorly) you are breathing while sitting, standing and exercising throughout the day. Practitioners can also see if you are sitting upright or mostly slouching to make an assessment.
Some of the medical uses offered are for diagnosing hypertension, panic disorder, managing asthma, depressing, chronic pain and a slew of other listed medical concerns. People who want to use the device on their own can apply it to stress management, yoga postures or just overall posture health.
Prana is not available for the consumer market just yet. According to its website, it should be ready January 2015 for a purchase price comparable to Spire at $149.99.