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B.R.E.A.T.H.E your way to a coherent mind

Hello everyone,

In this post I pull together much of what you need to know about the work of Alan Watkins.

More specifically, this post will talk about

  • Heart Rate Variability – what / why?
  • Neuroscience behind breath control / meditation
  • 12 different ways you can alter your breathe
  • the Performance Ice Burg
  • Emotion and Performance – how they interact
  • and more!



Alan Watkins literally wrote the book on how to master your mind and ensure a successful future.

The TED talk below, and information found therein, is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes mastering your mind.

He starts out talking about Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and what it reveals:

  • Can predict illness and death.
  • Quantifies energy levels and levels of dynamism which is crucial to performance
  • Linked to brain function and is crucial to effective decision making
  • Relates to individual identity which is highly relevant to authentic leadership

Find more information here – HRV: the white paper



Dr. Watkins mentions that there are 12 different ways that the breath can be adjusted – however he only talks about three of them (the important three b/c they “hold the key to coherence”):

  1. Rhythmically
  2. Smoothly
  3. Location of the focus during the breath (in the center of the chest / heart)

But What are the other 9?

Well, I did a little digging and found them,

Here they are:

4. speed / 5. pattern / 6.volume / 7. depth /

8. synchronization /9. resistance / 10. mechanics /

11. “flower” pattern / 12. special techniques

Find a summary of his Book ‘Coherence: the secret science of brilliant leadership’ here – Coherence



Dr. Watkins enlightens us on a few misconceptions, including the mislabeled  ‘performance pyramid‘ –

it is actually an ICE BURG

  • Performance / Results
  • Behavior / what you do


  • Thinking
  • Feeling
  • Emotion
  • Physiology

The ‘water level’ divides the internal and external worlds

how you ‘Think’ and how you ‘Feel’ LOOP with each other in a cycle – as does ‘Emotion’ and ‘Physiology’ – an it is the interaction of these two loops or cycles creates your behavior.

Watkins mentions that you CANNOT alter your thinking just by thinking about it – to solve a problem you need to come at it from a different level or angle.

You can however change what thinking emerges out of i.e. Biology/Physiology and Emotion.

He attempts to demonstrate with a live example by pulling a random member out of the audience and putting him through some tests.

This TED talk is long, and jam-packed with info. You can find a kind of follow along guide here – be brilliant every day

Also found in this guide above is the X-Y axis Graph which has “adrenaline” and the top of the Y axis and “relaxation” and the bottom.

the ‘misconception’ that being “hot” or being “cold” is all their is to performance is also cleared : What must be considered further is the X axis of Emotion

  • a ‘negative’ emotional state is on one side of the X  axis
  • a ‘positive’ emotional state is on the other side.

Thus the ideal place to be is in the quadrant of POSITIVE – ADRENALINE (but not too ‘hot’ b/c there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to Arousal and Performance)



Some Concluding tid-bits:


B              R                       E            A       T                       H        E

Breathe. Rhythmically. Evenly. And. Through the. Heart. Everyday

= the keys to cultivating a coherent mind



Why focus on the heart?

> The heart generates 3.5 watts of energy, that is 50% more than the brain.

> The heart also produces 5000 times more energy than the brain (correct me if i heard that wrong – now you have to watch the video!)

> The heart is the center of LOVE and feeling, if you focus on the heart / chest will assist in altering you at an emotional level, to a more positive state (which effects feeling, thinking, behavior and thus performance).


here is the TED talk:

“Be Brilliant Every Single Day”