Getting to the Heart of the Matter

  • Healthy Aging
  • Heart Health
Blog Title Getting to the Heart of the Matter Senior Heart Health

We often think of our heart in one of two ways – as the life sustaining organ that pumps our blood or the center of our deepest emotions. Both are true but neither fully express the complexity and intelligence of our heart. Scientist such as those working at the HeartMath Institute have been studying the complexities of the heart and have discovered that your heart can affect your mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition and personal effectiveness. Studies revealed that, in fact, the heart communicates more information to the brain than the reverse. We now understand that the heart is in essence a highly-complex information processing center more accurately described as the heart brain, and it communicates with and influences our neurological brain.

The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways:

• Neurological communication (nervous system)
• Biochemical communication (hormones)
• Biophysical communication (pulse wave)
• Energetic communication (electromagnetic fields)

Through these channels of communication, the heart actually influences our mental and emotional experience of life. The rhythm of the heart seems to be the key to this connection. For instance, studies show that stressful or draining emotions like frustration or overwhelm are reflected in the heart’s rhythm which in turn sends signals to the brain that affect higher-level brain centers and the autonomic nervous system. Our heart’s reactions to the world around us influence our cognitive function and perception.

It stands to reason that, if the effects of stress and overwhelm can cause the heart to trigger changes in our mental clarity and perception that are negative, then the opposite must also be true. Creating a logical and harmonious connection between the heart and the brain, known as heart coherence, can positively influence your brain function and sense of wellbeing. Heart coherence creates a synchronization between heart rhythms, the respiratory system blood-pressure. There are techniques, such as those taught by HeartMath practitioners, that can be practiced and perfected to help you achieve this coherence even in the most stressful situations. You can find a practitioner near you here.

If you aren’t ready for HeartMath but definitely need to work on your heart coherence, the practice of meditation or yoga can also be useful. There are fantastic guided meditations available on Insight Timer, a free app available online. You can visit your friendly neighborhood yoga studio or buy a DVD. Simple yoga poses can really make a difference. For instance, alternating cat and cow yoga poses offers an excellent opportunity to create emotional balance, decrease stress and calm the mind.

Here’s how:

Start in a “tabletop” position – hands and knees on the floor. Knees should be directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in a straight line to the floor. Center your head. Eyes gaze softly at the floor.

As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling and relax the head down.

On the inhale, drop the belly toward the floor and allow the hips and shoulders to raise toward the ceiling. Lift your head to look forward.

Repeat for several breaths ending back in the tabletop position.

If nothing else, remember the wisdom of your heart and honor how your emotional responses to the world affect the functioning of your mind and body. Understand that your heart is a powerful tool for achieving harmony in your life and a simple change in in its beat can make all of the difference.