Review: emWave 2 Portable Stress Relief Device

Misc Gear Health Tech

A while back I tried the emWave Desktop software for stress relief.  There were and are still many things that I did not like about the emWave Desktop, but my major discouraging issue with the product was that I had to be tethered to a computer during the session.  Jim from HeartMath send me the new emWave 2 Portable Stress Relief Device, which alleviates my biggest pet peeve.  Will it help me to be more diligent about using the device?  Maybe.  Did it enhance my prayer and meditation, and did it really work?  Let’s find out.

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The emWave 2 is a portable device which makes it much easier to do a session any time you want.  When you first turn on the device you have a chance to set the level of the session you want to attempt.  You can also set the volume of the sounds the device makes.  You can turn the sound completely off as well, which is what I usually did.  Then you have two choices so far as the sensor goes.  You can attach a sensor to your ear, or unplug the sensor and just use your thumb for gathering the heartbeat data the device needs to get the data regarding how close to coherence you are in.

Coherence is a term used by scientists to describe a highly efficient physiological state in which the nervous system, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems are working efficiently and harmoniously. Coherence is a state very similar to what athletes experience when they are in what is called “The Zone”.

According to emWave, coherence is also supposed to help reduce your stress level. I don’t know if I really buy into all of that.  I couldn’t really find anyone who said it was bunk or who said it was a fact, so I thought I would give it a shot again and see if it would work.

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When you start out your session, the manual tells you that you need to focus on breathing through your heart.  As the lights pulsate up, you breath in.  As the pulsate down, you breath out.  As you get closer to coherence, the light at the top of the device will cycle from red or low coherence to blue or medium coherence to green or high coherence.  It’s the green level you want to stay at.  As you go through your session, an LED will light up as you stay in medium or high coherence.  You get more lights the higher your coherence is and once you fill all of the lights you will have completed one reward cycle.  The instructions recommend that you complete at least one reward cycle per session and between 3-5 reward cycles per day with at least one 10 minute session per week.  After the first try or so, I was able to get into high coherence very quickly and I did kind of feel a bit less stressed.

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After you have done the session, you can hook the emWave 2 up to your computer (Windows or Mac only) and download the results and get a better idea of how you did.  The software keeps track of how you’ve done over time and shows you much more data than when you were using the device in portable mode.  You can also use the device while connected to the computer and see this detail as it happens.  In fact, the software is basically an updated version of the original emWave Desktop.

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So did the portability of the device help me complete more sessions?  Most definitely.  I was able to use the device just about anywhere.  At the bus stop, on the bus, at my desk at work and at home are all places I tried getting a session in.  So I have to say if I were to continue using the device and software, this is the form factor I much prefer over the USB device that came with the emWave Desktop.

So I guess the only question that remains is does coherence actually reduce your perceived stress level?  Possibly.  What this test really drove into me is how easy it is to do it without the device.  In fact, I realized during the test that the way you breath when using it is also the way I breathed when I was trying to reduce the stress myself.  It’s something I was already doing, which is why it was much easier for me to make that light green.  One other item Jim said some people said it did was improve the meditation and prayer time; I already do and I have to say it didn’t.  I tried at least once to use the device while praying and I found that the device just took away from one of the reasons I pray to begin with.  In prayer, the device was a distraction.  During meditation, it did actually help but mostly because of the way I breathed both during meditation and when I used the device.  So I think that HeartMath is starting to change my tune a little, but I don’t think I need to spend the $229 to get to coherence or improve my meditation.  For those who don’t practice meditation, I suggest it highly as I do it at least once or twice a day.  Usually it’s on the bus on the way to or from work.  I just close my eyes and try to think positive thoughts while breathing in deeply and it really helps to reduce my perceived stress level, and this is without the device.  Adding the device would only let me keep track of these times and after much thought, I don’t really need to keep track of it.  I just need to do it for my well being and knowing how relaxed I was or how high my coherence level doesn’t really add much for me.  You may think differently and if you do, well then go get this device as it will help you.  However, if you already practice prayer and meditation, then you probably are already doing much of what the device will help you do.

The emWave 2 is available direct from

MSRP: $229

What I liked: Portable version was much more convenient and allowed me to us it almost anywhere.

What I didn’t care for: I am not totally sold on using a device to reach coherence or in coherence at all; the device does indeed do something, but I am not sure if the device helps me reduce my stress level or if I was already doing it on my own; if you are a stats-meister, then this device is for you as even if you can do it on your own, you will love the stats that the device provides.

About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.

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