Health and Healing Blog

The Heart of the Matter

The human heart is a complex and beautiful entity with importance that exists on a variety of levels. When we think of the words we say to someone as coming “from the heart” we make use of that term metaphorically. When considering the heart as a physical structure, an integral part of our anatomy, concepts such as eating heart healthy enter our minds. However, the heart combines the material with the immaterial and plays a very important role in how we relate with others and are able to influence our own wellbeing.

As the physical center of the circulatory system, the heart produces an electromagnetic field (EMF) extending outside the body, that can be measured up to12ft in circumference.1 This EMF is generated as myocytes, heart specific cells, depolarize with each contraction and produce a flow of electricity. Myocytes are organized so that they can interpret hormonal signals and send the information to other body systems.2,3

This information can come in the form of the fight-or-flight response when perceived threats, such as deadlines, expectations, finances, and relationship conflicts arise. This system does not differentiate between threats to our egos and threats to our lives. Our reactivity causes a variety of physiological changes that can damage the cardiovascular system. These include an increase in blood pressure, the stickiness and plumpness of blood platelets, and an increase of stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol that prompt the body to move fat stores into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart attack. 2,3 Over time these perceived threats shift our internal baseline to being more on edge and lead to a lower level of heart rate variability (HRV).4

Our responses to stress can be altered, cynicism can be overcome and patterns of energy can be altered to promote a trusting, healthy heart. Cardiac coherence involves reestablishing our internal baseline to bring about balance in our lives and increasing our HRV.4 Rhythms and patterns can be influenced by practicing conscious awareness of our emotional state and shifting our thoughts and emotions to more positive ones. This can be done through acquiring skills of self-regulation to increase coherence and reestablish wholeness, activating a feeling of calm. Breathing exercises, massage, meditation, and yoga are all beneficial practices to assist the body in reestablishing a more peaceful internal baseline. 5 Evidence suggests that learning to overcome hostility and developing positive social connections can reduce the risk of CVD and improve quality of life.6

It is of utmost importance to slow down and consider the effect that our energy has on our own experience on Earth as well as on the lives of everyone we interact with. Through developing a peaceful demeanor, mental processing improves and even more challenging moments can be encountered with a lowered stress response.3 The heart functions as more than a physical structure and it is our task to guide our hearts toward bridging the multitudes of our being.   

 

 
References
  1. Burleson KO, Schwartz GE. Cardiac torsion and electromagnetic fields: the cardiac bioinformation hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1109-16 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15823696 DOI:10.1016/j.,ehy.2004.12.023
  2. Goleman D, Gurin  J. Mind Body Medicine, How to Use Your Mind for Better Health. New York: Consumers Union of the United States; 1993:66-83.
    1. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Uchino B. Can Hostility Interfere with the Health Benefits of Giving and Receiving Social Support? The Impact of Cynical Hostility on Cardiovascular Reactivity During Social Support Interactions Among Friends. Annals Of Behavioral Medicine [serial online]. May 2008;35(3):319-330. Accessed January 26, 2014.
    2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Meditation [monograph online]. 2013. http://ezproxy.chatham.edu:2877/databases/hw/meditation.asp Accessed January 26, 2014.
    3. McCraty R, Zayas M. Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2014; 5 (1090) Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01090.
    4. Anderson J, Taylor A. Use of Complementary Therapies by Individuals With or at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: Results of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing Iss: Vol. 27(2), March/April 2012, p 96–102.
 

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nikki's picture

Witnesssing the Magic of the Body

The body is a beautiful and seemingly magical thing sometimes. 

When an individual experiences stress one of the areas that can create a place of holding is the physical body.  It can experience a state of freeze.  This doesn’t need to look like an immobilization of an entire area, but can be a small area of holding and tension that is braced against all else.

One of the beautiful things that we are able to witness as body workers is the ability for these frozen areas to melt from three types of connection:

  1. attention and intention

  2. touch

  3. the breath

Just like we witness with the frozen ice in the winter time, our bodies are the same.  It is a beautiful parallel since the body itself is made up of primarily water, in essence it is as if stress creates areas of ice in the body.

We see that just like the sun shining it’s light onto ice it is able to soften and melt.  In this same way when we shine our attention and intention on an area of holding we are bringing more light to these areas, allowing them to choose to melt.

Secondly, when we touch an area we bring the warmth of our hands, and the energy of connection to these places as we massage or bring a present touch allowing the area to melt.

And then thirdly, we can bring the breath.  This often happens along side of 1 & 2, but it can be a step on it’s own as well.  The warmth of the breath moving through these areas of frozen holding can melt and open.   This isn’t a forcing of the breath, but again involves the allowing of the breath into these areas of tension by an invitation.  Inviting the areas to soften and allow the fluidity of the water in the body to restore for free flowing movement.

I encourage you to try these three steps at home to invite ease and relaxation into your body for it to become more at ease.  You may even find the image of the body melting into more water to encourage a deeper place of allowing and connection as you explore the magic of the body.

 

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Alexander's picture

We are Capable of Exraordinary Talents

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others" -Dalai Lama

   We are infinite beings capable of extraordinary talents. Each individual has something unique and beautiful to share with this world. Where ever our truest and most positive talents lay I feel it is our obligation to express them fully once discovered.

   I always had a passion for healing. It's been a family trade starting with my father who inspired two of my sisters and I to become therapists. The thought of helping people on a daily basis created enough motivation for me to enroll into a massage program in Orlando, Florida. After a few short months into the program I started hearing remarkable feedback. People are saying they have been relieved of their headaches and some can now reach for that dish in the upper cabinet that they could not grab before. I was even hearing in many cases people were no longer feeling that shooting pain from their upper back leg to the bottom of their toes. Halfway through the program I knew I found my unique talent. This is what I wanted to share with the world.

   After 5 years of professional experience I have been licensed in Florida, Colorado, California and now Pennsylvania. It has been a blessing to travel the country and be mentored by highly educated individuals in their preferred modalities. It's a rewarding feeling to me understanding multiple techniques which may help relieve specific muscle pain. I remember to not take pride or consider my self a "miracle worker" by any means. I am merely a practitioner who has studied the science and anatomy behind massage who aids the client to help heal themselves.

   My most unforgettable experiences with massage have been the stories where clients no longer feel the need for drastic surgeries after our sessions. A lot of the time our limited range of motion is due to tightness in specific areas in the body that just need to be released. That knee that has been bothering you for years.. perhaps a misalignment in the body elsewhere is causing the pain which can be worked out through proper massage techniques rather then a trip to the surgery room. In one case a client had left the massage room and forgot to take her cane with her in which she had relied on to walk prior to the session. These stories bring so much joy to me and fill me with unlimited happiness.

   The work flows through me fluently every day and the satisfaction it brings to myself and others is my reminder that I am utilizing my unique talent helping others. My main focus is to continue studying new ways to help recover and aid every person I touch into a more enlightened body via massage therapy.

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Angie Miller's picture

Hygge -Warm Your World From the Inside Out

I try, I really try, but I don’t love winter. Never have. The short days and grey skies make me feel so blah.  The frigid cold makes my body tight and achy.  I stay indoors more and see my friends and family less. Yes, I load up on vitamin D and sit in front of a sun lamp, but it’s just not enough to cut through the S.A.D. i endure every year.

Then last winter, a dear friend who has listened to me whine and lament year after year- and happens to be one of those crazy people who actually gets excited about the coming of winter- was convinced I could learn to embrace it too if I prepared properly and got into the right mindset.  She gave me this wonderful little book called How to Hygge, The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life.  I think there may be hope..

The Nordic countries have long been recognized as some of the the happiest people in the world.  It’s hard to understand how this could be, considering they have to bear longer, darker, colder winters than we do.  Sounds like a nightmare to me.  But necessity is the mother of invention, and in order to survive and thrive in such an extreme climate, they cultivated the custom of Hygge (hoo-guh) which means, basically, the art of getting cozy. 

Rather than allowing winter to be something dreadful, that is out of our control and simply happens to us, Hygge would suggest that we fully embrace the season- whatever season- with special preparations and traditions.  Following are a few of the ones I found most helpful for winter:

-Create a warm and cozy ambiance in your home for the season.  Bring out the furry throw blankets, and the candles and twinkly lights to brighten up the long nights!  We’re burning gingerbread and pumpkin spice candles throughout the house, so not only does it look warm and inviting, it smells amazing when I walk in the door.  If you don’t have a wood burning fireplace, piñon incense will give your home that campfire smell.

-Indulge a little.  Focus first on simple, natural foods to nourish your body. Cook up a delicious pot of soup or chili.  Then spend some time baking something a little decadent.  It’ll warm up the house and make it smell so inviting...  and then share!

-Get together! It’s so easy to isolate once the weather gets rough, but we need to stay connected to the ones we love.  Have a dinner party, potluck style or invite people over for a board game night.  Rotate houses throughout the season.. Conviviality makes the heart happy.

-Cozy up your wardrobe.  Bring out the wooly socks and sweaters, the puffy coats, hats and scarves.... Make sure your wardrobe has everything you need to stay warm even on the most frigid days.  I know that this seems like common sense, but I took a good look at how I dress myself last winter and realized that i was often a layer or item short and I would end up cold and miserable if I were out for longer than 30 mins.  Pile on the layers and fend off the chill.

-Now that you're dressed warm, get outside!  Take a walk in a park or go ice skating.  Being out in nature has a slew of positive benefits on our bodies and our psyches.  It’s so important to move and stay active, to take in some fresh air and unfiltered sunlight, even during the coldest months.  It may not be lush and green, but the winter landscape has its own special, quiet beauty. My son and I like to identify the animal tracks we find in the snow and name the winter birds we see along our walks in Frick Park.

So go get your Hygge on this year.  Open your heart to the season and warm your world from the inside out.

 

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What Kids Have Taught me about Yoga, Mindfulness and Beyond

As adults, we often find it difficult to let go and relax. We know it's important to de-stress and yet unless we schedule relaxation into our schedules, it rarely is treated as a priority. Admitting this fact can be quite liberating. Choosing a time to dedicate oneself toward "recharging the batteries" can be a wonderful place to begin. Perhaps this is why so many people find attendance of regular yoga classes to be so beneficial. I certainly have found this to be true. The mat provides a safe space to learn how to move and breathe and heal my body, through repetition, commitment, patience and curiosity. Doing yoga with others teaches me playfulness, humility and the joy of communion.

I have witnessed many wonderful practitioners of yoga since I began my studies, and yet, I must admit that children are by far my greatest inspiration. During a kids yoga class, we explore mindfulness, sound exploration, animal shapes, traditional poses, storytelling, poetry, partner poses and group games. We discuss important topics like friendship and kindness and explore how these principles feel in our bodies. Children love how the poses make them feel and are given lots of space to create a safe haven on their mats.

Each child brings a unique world to their yoga practice. Downward facing dog is guaranteed to look different for every child. I may ask the class to demonstrate how an alligator moves. Every child will have their own take on how it would feel to be this creature. And herein lies the beauty: everyone is right! For children, play becomes more important than the outer appearance of a yoga posture. Teaching kids yoga has taught me the importance of approaching my practice from the inside out.

Here are just a few yoga pointers and observations that my young friends have to share with you:

-Stretching makes my body smile!

-Doing yoga means that you can be a mermaid, dolphin and a flying bird!

-When I imagine I am a mountain, my body feels strong, heavy and relaxed.

-Sometimes I want to have quiet time on my mat.

-I could see my friend's breath moving in and out and it was really cool!

-I do yoga all the time. You can even do yoga in the grocery store!

-Counting five breaths helps me to feel more calm.

-I like to do Star Wars yoga!

The next time you have 15 minutes to spare, ask a child in your life to share a yoga practice. Surely it will be wonderfully creative and unlike any class you have ever attended! 

 

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