In coherence, the heart rate is not necessarily lowered although there is a change in the rhythm pattern of the heart. In relaxation, there is a lowering of heart rate.
Coherence is an active state of positive engagement, characterized by extraordinary physical activity and mental acuity. Relaxation is a low energy state.
Relaxation can lead to sleep; coherence produces a state of relaxed alertness, opening the heart and brain to intuition, creativity and improved performance.
Studies have shown that the heart is an electromagnetic field radiating 12 to 15 feet beyond the body. Moreover this field curves back towards the heart in the shape of a torus suggesting that the frequencies of the heart are accessible at any point within that field.
This means that coherence can and does extend from the body nervous system outward into our personal and social space. The way we feel inside can indeed change the reality of the world outside us.
A coherent heart rhythm pattern is produced when the two branches of the body nervous system are synchronized in a smooth wave-like regularity. This arrangement becomes evident when we are experiencing emotional stability and positive feelings.
The more we pause to appreciate and show caring and compassion, the more order and coherence we experience internally. When our hearts are in an “internal coherence state,” studies suggest that we enjoy the capacity to be peaceful and calm yet retain the ability to respond appropriately to stressful circumstances.
Researchers have found that when we think about someone or something we really appreciate and experience the feeling that goes with the thought, the parasympathetic – calming-branch of the autonomic nervous system – is triggered. This pattern when repeated bestows a protective effect on the heart. The electromagnetic heart patterns of volunteers tested become more coherent and ordered when they activate feelings of appreciation.
Ref: Mcraty, R. “Heart Rhythm Coherence - An Emerging Area of Biofeedback.” Biofeedback 2002; 30(1): 23-25.