In a classic “Seinfeld” episode, George’s father adopts what’s supposed to be a stress-reduction technique. Except that, instead of reciting it softly to himself, he bellows to the rafters: “Serenity now!”
The Inner Balance Trainer is a $99 device from a company called HeartMath that’s supposed to help achieve the same goal without the bellowing.
After you download the free Inner Balance app, you clip the sensor to your earlobe and connect it to the dock connector of your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. (IPhone 5 and fourth-generation iPad users will need an adapter to use it with Apple’s new Lightning connector.)
The app then coaches you through breathing exercises designed to reduce stress, while recording data from the sensor on how you’re doing.
One screen features a brightly colored circle that pulses at the pace you’re supposed to breathe. Another has a soothing photo of a waterfall that you can replace with one of your own. You can also select music from your collection to accompany your sessions. I decided on the Beatles’ “Across the Universe,” which seemed appropriately New Age-y.
It turns out that, according to the Inner Balance, I’m sort of a whiz at “coherence” — the synchronization of heart, brain and nervous system that’s the centerpiece of HeartMath’s stress-reduction approach. Or at least, I’m a whiz at “Quick Coherence,” at the lowest level.
As you progress with your training — sessions can be as brief as three minutes, though five to 10 minutes somehow seemed more appropriate — you can ratchet up the level of difficulty. At the end of each session, you get a report on how you did, including an overall score as measured in “coherence points.”
You can even post the results of your training to Twitter and Facebook, so you can have coherence contests with your friends. Sort of like competing to see who can yell “Serenity now!” the loudest.