Who: Nikki M., 30, breathwork coach and holistic personal trainer, Orange County, CA

Helpful Oura tip: Heart rate variability (HRV) is a valuable metric that can help you understand how your body handles stress. Breathwork, which you can do on the Oura App under the Explore tab, has been shown to increase HRV over time, and thus enhance your ability to handle stress. 

RELATED: HRV and Stress: What HRV Can Tell You About Your Mental Health

What led you to Oura?

In 2020 I got an IUD (intrauterine device). Over the next two years, I started experiencing hair loss and skin problems, which I attributed to the IUD.

I decided to get the IUD removed and was looking for a more holistic approach to birth control. I started using Natural Cycles, but was struggling to remember to take my temperature every morning. Sometimes I’d forget until I was already out of bed, which reduces the accuracy of the reading. This led me to second guess whether it was working.

When I discovered that Natural Cycles partnered with Oura, I immediately got an Oura Ring. The transition from the IUD to Oura with Natural Cycles was super seamless.

Track your cycle and understand your body with Oura
Shop Now

Tell us about your journey using Natural Cycles and Oura.

I had always found birth control a confusing topic – is hormonal birth control bad? How can you take a more natural, yet still effective, approach? Oura and Natural Cycles simplified this all for me. It made it all seem less intimidating, driving a deeper understanding of my own body and cycle.

This led me to experiment with cycle syncing. Using Natural Cycles with Oura, I can see where I’m at in my cycle and I try to adjust my workouts slightly if I need to take it easy. I’m still in the process of refining this, but it’s been great to use Oura to help me map this out.

LEARN MORE: How to Align Your Training With Your Menstrual Cycle

What have you learned about your health from using Oura that you didn’t know before?

Oura has also brought awareness to my sleep. I’ve always cared about staying active and eating healthy, but never thought too much about my sleep. I knew that adults needed seven to nine hours, and that was the extent of it. Now I’ve learned that sleep is a crucial piece of the wellness puzzle. 

Due to the nature of my job as a trainer and coach, I wake up early (often 4am). Previously, after work, I would do heavy strength training or HIIT, regardless of how much I slept. Now, if my Sleep Score is low, rather than fighting my fatigue, I’ll opt for Pilates and take a 20-minute nap. I was never a big napper before Oura, but seeing how it bumps up my Sleep Score is really motivating.

READ MORE: How Long Should You Nap?

I have realized that the input determines the output – how much sleep I get correlates with how much energy I have to give to other things. When I focus on the input – sleep – I can achieve more throughout the day.

Overall, Oura is like a mirror. It has changed my outlook on health and helped me become more accepting of the fluctuations in my body and energy levels. 

“I’ve learned that sleep is a crucial piece of the wellness puzzle.”

As a personal trainer, I also use Oura on the job for my clients who use Oura. I often check their Oura Scores before deciding on the workout for their session. Without Oura, I’m just going off what they tell me – but seeing it in data provides that added layer of information to help me be the best coach possible for them.

READ MORE: Introducing Oura Circles: Connect with Your Community and Reach Your Goals Together

Tell us about your work as a breathwork coach and how Oura plays a role. 

Breathwork is powerful. I often call it meditation for busy people because it’s an active practice. Many people struggle to find stillness during meditation, but find that they’re able to during breathwork. This is usually because they get immediate feedback during a session, like temperature changes or tingling. 

START HERE: 10 Simple Breathing Exercises for Sleep and Relaxation

Oura is the first tool I’m aware of that is able to track all the metrics that can be improved by breathwork — i.e., heart rate variability (HRV) and resting heart rate (RHR). Breathwork has been shown in research to increase HRV over time by giving you a dose of hormetic stress which can improve your stress response. So it’s one of the best metrics to track if you’re starting a breathwork practice.

LEARN MORE: Use HRV to Manage Stress

Hormetic stress is essentially beneficial stress that helps you build tolerance to other, perhaps bigger, stressors in your life. Depending on the specific style of breathwork, you may intentionally increase your breathing rate, activating your sympathetic nervous system or “fight-or-flight”.

But during breathwork, you’re in a controlled, safe environment — the facilitator (or audio guide) is leading and reassuring you. So instead of fighting that elevated feeling, you can play in it, and ultimately feel comfortable in it.

So next time you face a stressful situation in your life, you’re able to intentionally pause and think “I’ve been here before.” Instead of immediately reacting, you become more aware of how to manage an elevated state, and you can respond in a more intentional way. 

Plus, with Oura, you have hard data to measure whether your new practice is working. You can Tag every breathwork practice and monitor trends in your HRV – that’s super helpful. Sometimes I even do my own breathwork practice straight from the Oura App on the Explore tab to get the immediate biofeedback.

RELATED: “Mental Health Begins In The Body:” Meet the Neuroscientist Who Uses HRV to Measure the Brain-Body Connection

What’s Your Oura Story?

Everyone’s story is unique, and we’d love to hear yours. Share your story here.