Heart rate variability during mindful breathing meditation

Author: Aravind Natarajan1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Google LLC, San Francisco, CA, United states.
Conference/Journal: Front Physiol
Date published: 2023 Jan 23
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Pages: 1017350 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.1017350. , Word Count: 160

We discuss Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measured during mindful breathing meditation. We provide a pedagogical computation of two commonly used heart rate variability metrics, i.e. the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) and the standard deviation of RR intervals (SDRR), in terms of Fourier components. It is shown that the root mean square of successive differences preferentially weights higher frequency Fourier modes, making it unsuitable as a biosignal for mindful breathing meditation which encourages slow breathing. We propose a new metric called the autonomic balance index (ABI) which uses Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia to quantify the fraction of heart rate variability contributed by the parasympathetic nervous system. We apply this metric to heart rate variability data collected during two different meditation techniques, and show that the autonomic balance index is significantly elevated during mindful breathing, making it a good signal for biofeedback during meditation sessions.

Keywords: biofeedback; heart rate variability; meditation; mindfulness; physiology Frontiers.

PMID: 36756034 PMCID: PMC9899909 DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2022.1017350