Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Quantifying Meditations: Breathe app on the Apple Watch & iPhone

A healthy mind resides in a healthy body, and just like you’d give the body exercise, the mind too needs its share of relaxation and ‘me time’. Since time immemorial, meditation has proven to be the sure shot way of calming your mind, narrowing the focus down to singular ideas and rejuvenating the entire mental psyche – a refresh, if you will. Yoga asanas involving Pranayama and the lotus position have paved the way for more advanced exercises which all aim at one thing – setting the stage for a healthy mind.

But throw QS principles into the mix, and you’re looking at a sure shot way of achieving your meditation goals more efficiently and effectively. So much so, that most fitness and lifelogging applications nowadays and even hardware are equipped to target building the mental prowess through effective meditations.

And that shall be the crux of this article here: Meditation is cool, but with QS in the equation, we’re looking at some nifty mannerisms and a more systematic approach to calming the mind and body.

WHY MEDITATE?

In the days of yore, people practised meditation in order to achieve higher levels of consciousness, a connection with a higher Being or maybe even gaining the mental faculties to fully comprehend the secrets of life, the universe and all things thereabout. In recent times, meditation hasn’t been all about a spiritual aspect, but more of a holistic approach to achieving overall good health.

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Meditation nowadays is actually prescribed by medical practitioners as a remedy to multiple disorders, including high stress levels, high blood pressure, mood swings and irritability. Longer term goals include increasing mindfulness, overcoming addictions, improving concentration spans and even dealing with mental trauma and depression.

Does that mean meditation should be practised only by afflicted people? Absolutely not. The benefits of meditation extend far beyond mental disorders, which we’ve talked about in our article on QS for the soul, and they provide the bedrock for a calm and composed mind which in turn leads to an overall healthy lifestyle.

TRENDS OBSERVED SO FAR

Meditation centric tools have been making themselves prevalent for quite some time now: both in the app stores and in hardware forms. Broadly speaking, these tools are of two types: recorders, and influencers. The recorders merely record the brain activities in response to specific stimuli, and the influencers in turn help in improving the recorded parameters.

Notable examples in this regard include multiple applications – such as Equanimity, Buddhify, Headspace and Omvana. Talk about hardware, and the first example which instantly comes to mind is the Muse headband, which actually helps coach the brain and bring about more quantified meditation sessions.

But a more recent example has to be Apple’s Breathe app, the new version which was announced along with the new iPhones and the new Apple Watches a couple of weeks back. It might not be a game changer (yet), but it is making it evident that meditation is a pretty big deal for fitness trackers.

 

 

THE NITTY-GRITTIES OF BREATHE

For the uninitiated, Breathe is the new Apple app whose main purpose is to assist with improving mindfulness levels, reduce stress and enhance meditation sessions. Bundled with the Apple Watch as part of the watchOS 3, the app also makes its presence in iOS 10.

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The app has simple enough settings, which guide the user through sessions of deep breathing exercises. The user can set the duration of the breathing exercise, either one or five minutes. Once that’s done, the animation of the app and the gentle taps build a rhythm which the user can follow with his/her breathing exercise.

While the animations are being depicted on the display, the Apple Watch records the user’s heart rate. These stats are displayed once the session is over. During the instance of any interruptions or notifications, the session stops automatically, and the user won’t get any credit for that particular Breathe session.

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The ‘Lifelogging’ aspect is still a part of the deal here: The information recorded is automatically relayed to the Health app on the iPhone which further breaks the data down into intuitive graphs which depict the mindfulness levels.

IS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?

Breathing is an activity which most of us take for granted. We never really pay proper attention to it, and ergo miss out on its benefits.

As for the question asked, the answer would be YES. 

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Breathe not only reminds you about breathing exercises, but it also takes into account some user set parameters – the breath rate per minute, a summary report and more important than anything – the aforementioned graphs in the Health app. But then again, Breathe is just a tool to address a larger issue – that of mindfulness, which further helps reduce stress levels, improve grey matter density, increase cortical thickness and even alter the structure of the brain network and its faculties thereof.

HAS APPLE PLAYED ITS CARDS RIGHT?

Definitely. You have to look at things objectively: the Apple Watch Series 2 comes in tow with a host of fitness features – including water resistance and inbuilt GPS, among other specialised mechanisms. With the Breathe app, Apple is enabling users to incorporate a holistic approach to improving mind and body, heart and soul, into their QS regimes.

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