This handheld meditation aid uses vibrations to help you focus and guide your breathing as ECG sensors measure your mindfulness and a companion app tracks and feeds back on your progress.
Having never been able to properly inculcate a meditation habit (tried Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer – managed very few to almost no sessions a week) I was so excited to get this device which promises to help you get into the routine! It’s supposed to pick up on your heart rate and other signals when you place your thumbs on the ECG sensors then give you a report, along with vibrating to keep you focused on your breath.
Out of the box – it is adorable! The Core Meditation Trainer is a beautiful orb that has solid heft and a dark wooden grain. You do have to charge the device right out of the box and one thing I did not like was that it needs to be hooked up to a charging port all day. As someone who has just moved cities and half my belongings (including extension cords) are still sitting in their boxes, the suggestion to keep it hooked up on your bedside table all night felt hard. It was taking up valuable socket space but if you didn’t charge it, it would basically die on you half-way through the meditation routine. That has happened twice with me already. So I wish it had better battery life. Once it dies it not only stops the vibration feedback but also stops recording your vitals – no bueno!
Syncing up the device to the app was seamless! It did automatically want to do a firmware update but it didn’t take too long. The app also has a great user interface, very clean and sharp. Easy to use for absolute beginners too. My favourite part is how they go into details once you’ve finished with your meditation for the day and can see how your HRV varied, how much time you were ‘Calm’ or ‘Focused’ and how well that compared with your past sessions.
As soon as you start it puts down the basics path of learning how to meditate and how to use the device; then, once you’re done with the basics, you automatically get suggestions on what other types of meditative practices you can do. The first two weeks have the premium subscription, and there are a number of cool classes you can choose from, but after the fortnight is up, you get a limited number of classes or practices that you can repeat. There is no search function, so if you’re looking for a particular one, you need to scroll through. (There aren’t that many free ones anyway, so it’s not like the scrolling takes an age!)
The app also lets you schedule reminders that pop up on your phone, which is pretty useful, but this is also a function that Headspace and other similar apps offer. The voice led lessons sound fairly alike, as well, and I am not sure of exactly how much the vibrations on the device have helped me ‘focus’ or return to them. Often I found I was focusing on my breathing a lot more than the vibrations; in some cases, when the vibration intensity is supposed to guide your breathing, it was rather tricky to to follow along or predict when to breathe in or out. However, practice probably makes perfect, in this regard.
Onto the actual feedback that the device plus app combo gives you. In my opinion this is the strongest value proposition that Core provides. Other apps like Headspace do nothing to tell you whether your meditation was successful or could do with more work (obviously); the Fitbit I have tries to offer feedback by seeing how much your heart bpm changed over the 2 to 5 min breath practice. But the Core wins hands down – it breaks it into Focus, Calm and Training subsegments and goes into a little detail on how these are measured. They do measure your HRV and tell you your average, your trend, whether this session raised it or if it’s lower than usual. It’s amazing to have real time feedback right after your session and you can even save notes on each session on how it made your mind or body feel.
Meditation is good for you and has been popular for thousands of years, but the downside is it can be difficult to quantify. People with quieter minds tend to live longer; a a study published in Nature concluded that both people and animals live longer when their brains are less active. By manipulating a protein called RE1-Silencing Transcription factor (known as REST) which suppresses brain activity, researchers could influence how long an organism lived.
Studies increasingly suggest the impact of meditation on physical wellbeing may be almost as positive as mental – it can reduce stress, improve psychological wellbeing and also improve your lifespan. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology, which set out to specifically test the impact of meditation on mortality, found that those who had practised meditation had lower blood pressure than the other. In the longer term, when they followed up on participants after several years, they found that the meditation group were 23% less likely to have died of any cause in that period and 30% less likely to die of any causes.
This is almost like the Apple of the meditation world – it just works. If they fix the battery life, the lack of a search button on the app and the limited sessions you can actually take without the premium subscription (you’re already paying ~$180 for it so why not? I feel like even my Fitbit gives me more free lessons/ sessions than this app does), then purchasing one would be a no-brainer.
The melding of the User Experience, the actual features and the economic value of it are the trifecta that makes a product great – this one does 2 out of the 3 to a limited capacity. More improvements would absolutely make it a more seamless experience and realistically it is within the realm of possibility.
As for the third – the price – Core probably know their target segment well, and I can see the same people who pay a premium for good workout equipment, healthier food, smart home systems, etc. being the ones who splurge on this for themselves or a loved one. It’s not a mass market consumer device which will have a large user base based on the price tag alone but if you’re looking for something to help give you feedback on your meditation – this is the device!