Two weeks ago I had a fabulous yoga practice at my yoga studio, Flow Yoga Studio in Arvada, Colorado, that was centered around the heart. Not just the figurative heart (the heart that expresses love and compassion), but the physical heart too. The instructor, Brooke, had us focus on how amazing our hearts are–physically and emotionally. She had us go into a state of gratitude for all our hearts do for us. So, I wanted to bring that beautiful gratitude of the heart to you and focus on its wonders and what it does for us. I want to focus on the physical heart and the emotional heart.
The physical heart is truly amazing. When you stop to think about all the things the heart does, it is easy to be grateful for it. Here are some amazing facts about the heart:
- The heart beats about 115,000 times in one day. That’s 41,975,000 times in one year.
- Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day. That’s 730,000 gallons of blood pumped in one year.
- A woman’s heart beats slightly faster than a man’s heart.
- If the blood vessel system were to be stretched out it would be over 60,000 miles long.
- The heart has its own electrical supply and will continue to beat when disconnected from the body.
Just looking at these few facts about the heart makes you stop and think. Our hearts work for us all of the time. They never stop–not while sleeping, working, or playing. The heart beats no matter what–whether we are happy, sad, or indifferent–and will continually beat until we expire. What a big job for an organ no bigger than the size of your fist. How wonderful it is that we have something that always works for us and we don’t even have to think about it. This is where the state of gratitude is important because even though we aren’t actively thinking about how to make our hearts pump, we need to actively thank our hearts and bodies for all of the amazing things they do. Without our hearts we would not exist.
The central nervous does control things like our hearts, digestive processes, cell regeneration, etc. But, there has been over 40-years of research into the Heart-Brain Connection, which has found that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. This influences emotions, memories, attention, and problem-solving. The heart has even been found to have its own “brain” in which there are 40,000 separate neurons that “give the heart the ability to independently sense, process information, make decisions, and even to demonstrate a type of learning and memory” (Heart-Brain Connection). It’s also been found to release its own hormones that are found in the brain as well. There is also research showing how the heart relates to and controls emotions. So, our physical heart really is connected to that figurative heart of which we speak when talking about love, emotions, etc.
Our (figurative) hearts also have an important job. It’s at this center where we focus on love, compassion, and empathy. When we love someone or something we release oxytocin, which helps us feel calm and at peace. This is called the love hormone because it gives us that feeling of elation and joy so often associated with love. Yes, our hearts can break, but when healed they can absolutely love again. Hearts heal and we learn from that break and pain in order to be stronger, better humans. So often we give much more of our hearts to others than we do to ourselves. This could be because we either feel guilty, selfish, or wrong when focusing on ourselves. But our hearts need to be nourished with self-love as well because eventually the love and giving will fade into resentment and anger. How can you show yourself love? What have you learned from your heart, your love, your experiences that can help you grow and feel good in who you are and what you are doing? How can you show gratitude to your heart and yourself? By focusing on you and what your needs are you are better able to give, as well as receive, love. When giving and receiving love, remember, you release the hormones that counteract the stress hormones causing you to feel calm rather than anxious. So, love really is good for your body as well as your soul.
A heart-centered meditation:
Breathe into your chest. See the breath surround your heart’s space. See the breath wrap around your heart as thought the breath is giving your heart a hug. Feel the heart in your body. Feel it pump against your chest. Take a deep breath of gratitude in and wrap the gratitude around your heart. As you exhale continue to feel your heart within your chest. With each inhale give thanks to this little organ. With each exhale feel the heart continue to beat for you. Now, focus on the love you feel from your heart. See that love extend out to your family, friends, and even those you don’t know. With each beat, see that love shine from your heart. For when you send out love you receive it back even stronger. Feel peace, joy, and harmony enter your soul with each inhale, and with each exhale breathe out love. Continue to breathe, knowing your heart is working for you–it’s pumping life giving blood around your body, and it gives you the capability to love, to feel, and to be compassionate. Sit with the heart for as long as your can. Then, when you are ready, thank your heart for all it does and have a beautiful day.