HeartMath Inner Balance™

 
2.7
 
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HeartMath Inner Balance™
By Jonathan Roseland

I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinkingYou should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset - spend over $150 and you'll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.

Biohacker Review: What I've learned from +300 HRV sessions...

Having used Heartmath's emWave for a while, I decided to take my optimization of heart rate variability to the next level and got the Inner Balance Bluetooth sensor.

In this review, I'll honestly discuss the pros vs cons, share how I saved nearly 50% on both mindfulness-enhancing devices, compare them to other biohacking tech I've used, and summarize the state-of-the-art science and studies done evaluating Heartmath's HRV technology.

Inner Balance vs emWave

Inner Balance vs emWave

The major difference is that the Inner Balance is a Bluetooth sensor that gives you real-time HRV biofeedback with a slick Android or IOS app. The app displays your general state of coherence in red, blue, or green along with a heart rate graph. It also gives you a more detailed readout of your coherence score and graphs your performance. I logged into the app with my old Heartcloud account and was pleased to discover that it still had my emWave session data from back in 2014, when I first started making HRV training videos in Medellin, Colombia...

What I like about the emWave is that it's a subtly pleasant and mindful technology, the rising and falling light bar on it is sort of mesmerizing. Unlike my smartphone, it's a zero-distraction piece of technology, when I sit down with my emWave I'm not going to get sucked down the click-bait rabbit hole on Facebook or Twitter when I use the Inner Balance I have to staunchly resist checking social media or being distracted by dinging and vibrating app notifications. The advantage of the emWave is that you use it without your smartphone, which some will find more conducive to real mindfulness.

Inner Balance is an innovative self-monitoring and HRV training system for Android and IOS

HeartMath Inner Balance

Biohackers who rigorously self-quantify and experiment will love the Inner Balance as it allows you to run endless HRV tests to see how different things affect your autonomic nervous system's well-being...

  • Wear it while doing mundane things; watching TV, reading, driving, working on your computer, etc to establish your baseline HRV.
  • Do HRV sessions first thing in the morning and in the evening before bed to see how they compare.
  • Measure HRV to see how different supplements and Nootropics affect you - interestingly enough, the smart drug that I get the highest coherence scores on is (reliably) nicotine.
  • Measure your HRV while working and listening to focus-inducing music vs a podcast.
  • Measure how different meals and foods affect your HRV.
  • Get crazy and measure HRV making love (like I did).

HRV training helps you to habituate energetic "nootropic" breathing

When you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon, a 15-minute HRV session will energize you and give you a very clear head.

I like to passively use the Inner Balance sensor while I'm working on my computer and keep an eye on my coherence score on my iPad. It reminds me to be a little more conscious of my breathing, typically while sitting in front of my computer working, my breathing is shallow. The coherence feedback encourages deeper, more energizing breathing which naturally makes me more productive and pepped up. In this regard, the Inner Balance trains you to breathe better - like a tantric Taoist practitioner or even a Jedi.

Last year my wife got very upset (actually the most upset I've ever seen her) about the catastrophic wildfires in Australia and the 500 million animals that have apparently perished in them. She kept going on her phone and looking at pictures of cute Koalas and Kangaroos and she would start crying at their plight there in the fiery forests down under. Eventually, I sat her down, took away her phone and we did a 15-minute HRV meditation session together - this did a lot for her mood.

A few negatives...

"Mindfulness technology" is nearly an oxymoron, technology is, of course, the main thing robbing us of mindfulness in modernity. A while back I tried meditating with a friend's Muse Headband and I found it kind of irritating to use, it was very tricky to get the band aligned right on my head to read my brainwaves. The Bluetooth that it uses to connect to my smartphone is also not the most reliable technology. The Inner Balance suffers from some of the same issues...

I'd really rather be able to just plug the sensor into my smartphone instead of using Bluetooth. Fortunately for the EMF-avoidant like me, Heartmath now offers the Inner Balance Wired that can just be plugged into an iPhone or Android. I've noticed an issue (that probably has something to do with the Bluetooth connectivity), the app chimes different tones as you reach different levels of coherence, however, it sporadically makes this distorted unpleasant chiming noise that robs a bit of tranquility from meditating with the Inner Balance. But, it's not a big problem because the chiming can just be muted.

The Inner Balance app

HeartMath Inner Balance™Is not bad but considering that it's a mindfulness app for a not-inexpensive device, there's a lot of room for improvement...

  • I'd love it if it had a bit more artistic and hypnotic mandala mode.
  • I'm annoyed every time I use it that the app requires that I turn on location services - why the hell does Heartmath want to know where I live? And who are they sharing this information with? I have to deduct a star from my review for this violation of privacy.
  • It would be very cool if it played algorithmic music or audio tracks that would rise and fall in intensity with the coherence I reach - the Muse headband does this.
  • The app's chiming noises can be muted but this also totally mutes my smartphone, so I CAN NOT listen to a Brain.FM meditation. track on my smartphone and have the chiming muted, which is a little annoying but not a big deal because I also have both apps on my iPad. 

This feels like an app for a $20 product, not a $160 product. 

My main criticism of Heartmath's products is their underwhelming aesthetics

They look and feel like things that should cost about $15, not well over $100. I paid just $90 for my Inner Balance (it retails for $160) because I bought a lightly used one off eBay. Frankly, I think it's a bit overpriced at $160. Also, I live in a European country where it would be exceedingly inconvenient to take advantage of Heartmath's warranty if the device broke so I decided to take a chance on a used one - so far it works great, you couldn't tell that it's not new. I managed to get both the emWave and the Inner Balance for $140, less than what I'd pay for a single brand-new device. My reasoning was that one of them will likely break so I might as well get two used - an antifragile biohacker is all about redundancy.

Broken Inner Balance

The plastic clip on the back of the Inner Balance broke after about 280 sessions of very gentle use, which shouldn't happen with a $160 product - one star deducted! I'd be out of luck even if I had purchased it directly from Heartmath as their warranty is for just one year. Although, it's not a big problem for me as I do most of my HRV sessions lying down meditating, I just lay the sensor next to me.

There was some guy on Youtube who was calling this device a scam because the app continues to register a heartbeat and HRV even when it's not connected to your body, which might lead one to believe that this $160 device is not actually doing anything and that the app is just outputting bullshit HRV and heartbeat measurements. I don't think the app is giving me fake biofeedback because I've noticed that my quality of mindfulness, focus, and breathing definitely make a difference in the green, red, or blue coherence feedback. But Heartmath should have engineered either the app or the Inner Balance sensor to be smart enough to know when it's disconnected from my body.

Inner Balance vs Samsung Health's HRV Stress Test

Samsung HealthOn our Galaxy smartphones, my wife and I sometimes use the stress test function of the Samsung Health app, I was a bit skeptical that holding our thumbs over the camera lens could accurately measure heart rate variability but...

  • Generally, there seemed to be some consistency between the Inner Balance biofeedback and the Samsung app's stress test and heartbeat measurements. 
  • One morning I was underslept and had a relatively bad emWave performance, about an hour later my Samsung Stress Test score seemed unaffected.
  • My resting heart rate seems to be around 75 BPM, I used the Samsung Health app while the Inner Balance app measured my heart rate several times and it was pretty accurate.

But I don't think the Heartmath devices could be replaced with an app at this point because the devices give you ongoing Biofeedback. You stare at the app or the emWave and focus on your breathing and reaching a state of inner tranquility, as you you dip out of coherence it prompts you to refocus. The near-instantaneous biofeedback trains you to breathe better and maintain a peak state of relaxed arousal. You can't do this with an app holding your finger over your phone camera.

 Inner Balance vs Muse Headband

Muse Headband

A few summers ago we vacationed with another couple who had a Muse Headband which I tried and was not impressed with, frankly. I found it really tricky to properly orient the headband on my crown so it could pick up brainwaves from the four quadrants. Meditation tech that is difficult to use is meditation tech that doesn't get used. I think that I'd need to get a haircut like every week for the Muse headband sensors to maintain contact with the skin on my head.

MUSE 2: The Brain Sensing Headband - Meditation Tracker Multi Sensor Headset Device
 
2.3
Category: Mind Hardware

With the Heartmath devices, you just attach the sensor clip to your ear and they work. I think that Heartmath devices are the better buy for your biohacking buck.

State-of-the-Art Science

There are over 40 scientific papers about Heartmath's technology on Pubmed, I'll summarize some of the most recent findings...

Most recently Heartmath tech was used by 188 nursing students in an American study to make them more resilient to incivility - shockingly, in America's increasingly S**thole-icious healthcare system nurses have to deal with a lot of incivility. Another similar study done this year found that Heartmath techniques resulted in significantly improved resilience in 3 of 4 primary scales (organizational stress, emotional stress, and physical stress), to quote further from the study:

This study supports existing evidence that HeartMath techniques are effective in managing stress and increasing resiliency. These techniques are also valuable tools for health care providers to use with patients and their families in the management of symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness related to hospitalization and illness.

A Texas pilot study used Heartmath in a meditation study to determine the effect of listening to music while meditating. The self-reported results from the meditators were that non-melodic holosync-style music or silence was best for meditation. Try doing your HRV training while listening to music and in silence to see what difference it makes.

The Heartmath Experience

Talks about the changing paradigm of the heart - the heart is not merely a pump, according to Heartmath the heart is something akin to a second brain with its own nervous system. This course is a little long on wuwu and short on science, with hot tips like: Attitude breathing - Identify a negative emotion to banish, choose a replacement emotion, imagine yourself breathing in that new emotion, and hold onto it. Instead of getting in on the online course craze cash grab, Heartmath should have reinvested in its product line and app.

Sunk-Cost Motivated Self-Improvement

As I've written about elsewhere, you'll be a lot more disciplined in your personal growth endeavors if you spend money on them. I pay for a gym membership because then I know I'll go. For the same reason, I purchased both Heartmath devices. I've known for a long time that daily mindfulness practice is one of the best biohacking habits but, honestly, I'm not as consistent with it as I should be. So I dropped some coin on these devices and I've been using them regularly.

3 stars blue LM

Should you invest in HeartMath's devices? The devices will make you more mindful of your breathing and mood, more consistent with meditation practice but HeartMath needs to step its game up and deliver the elite product that biohackers are paying for. I don't regret buying mine on eBay!

Photos

HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™
HeartMath Inner Balance™ vs emWave
The plastic clip on my HeartMath Inner Balance randomly broke after a few years of very gentle use.

Videos

Inner Balance Trainer Review (640x360)
emWave2 vs EQPro: Heart Rate Variability while Dual N-Back Brain Training
Inner Balance Trainer
Inner Balance Trainer
Inner Balance App Overview
What I learned from +300 HRV training sessions... [⭐⭐⭐ Biohacker Review] HeartMath Inner Balance™ vs emWave

Editor review

1 review
What I've learned from +300 HRV sessions...
(Updated: December 12, 2021)
Overall rating
 
2.7
Makes you feel 'Limitless'
 
3.0
Mind power results
 
4.0
Good value
 
1.0
HeartMath Inner Balance™ vs emWave
The plastic clip on my HeartMath Inner Balance randomly broke after a few years of very gentle use.
What I learned from +300 HRV training sessions... [⭐⭐⭐ Biohacker Review] HeartMath Inner Balance™ vs emWave
JR
#1 Reviewer 234 reviews
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