This would seem totally incredible if we were in the early years of biofeedback, say the 1960s: consumer focused, affordable, and wearable biofeedback instruments. A dream then, a reality now.
In recent years, we have seen the steady growth of such devices. First it started with heart-rate monitors for runners and then it went into many sleep tracking devices, from watches to bedside EEG monitors to beds holding bio-monitoring hardware.
Now we have the first breathing monitors. As we have discussed before, breathing is very powerful force in determining our mental states and our mental states are a powerful force in determining our body state through our way of breathing. A new device, Spire, is a good start of what I hope will be an extensive wave of breathing monitoring.
Spire, What is It?
Tracking breathing has required: wearing a sensor built around the chest or holding your nose next to the microphone of a smartphone so it can hear inhales and exhales. Spire has moved all sensing to hardware only slightly larger than a 25 cent piece.
Taking a cue from all of those advertising photos for spas and yoga centers, the makers of Spire have made their device look like a small flat stone. The stone-like device has a large clip that allows clipping Spire to your pants/belt-loop area or to the center strap of a bra. That’s it. Once on, it is all ready for monitoring.
Breathing movement is captured by the stone and data are sent to a the phone app where it is decoded and turned into a usable display.It should be noted that Spire concentrates our breathing when we are still as sitting around or resting. Not stock still but not up moving around, either. When we are still and our breathing moves into a tracked zone (Tense, Calm, or Focused), data are summarized and we can be buzzed by Spire that we have been in one of those zones. If we are alerted that we are in the Tense Zone, we can choose to relax or use a 3 minute exercise on the app. This works the same for the other two zones, Calm and Focused.
Zones are determined by how many breaths we take per minute and how consistent the movement of those breaths are across a few minutes. If our breathing is slow and smooth, we are in the Calm Zone. If it is faster but smooth, we are in Focus and if our breathing is fast and choppy, we are Tense.
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I’ve been using Spire for about a month now and I like it. I first set it to buzz me when I was Tense. Many times, I wasn’t perceiving I was under any special stress. Clearly, my body was seeing things differently. Now, I’m following Spire’s heads-up and trusting my body has it right and I need to back off with a few moments of deep, slow breathing.
Tracking Focus is an exciting possibility. Beyond real-time alerting when we are in Focus, Spire includes guided breathing session of a few minutes to shift us there. If I pay attention to the alerts and do the practice sessions, I should be able to learn the secret of calling up Focus.
One capability I wish was included is the ability to have Spire simply show breaths per minute so a person could work towards specific breaths per minute target. Getting the breath under 10 bpm is beneficial for lowering blood pressure and is relaxing. Going deeper, down to 6 bpm conveys additional health benefits and is very relaxing. Throwing in a timer and an optional guided session to do this would be a valuable improvement.
I recommend getting Spire, but its real potential will only become realized by wearing the device daily and giving it dedicated attention and doing the guided sessions. The device is well made, easy to pair to your phone, easy to recharge, and stays put wherever you clip it. (Note: I do not receive any compensation from Spire or through its purchase at the link below).
Video below: The developer of Spire, Neema Moraveji, P.hD., talks about breathing and the development of Spire.