When you think of your organism as a powerful, dynamic, and ever-vibrant ecosystem, it’s easier to recognize how each of its components intimately and synergistically affect each other. From cells and tissues to organs and organ systems, every physiological level of organization works together to keep you alive and help you thrive.
But beyond striving to attain optimal biological functioning, the body also plays an influential role in fostering and sustaining mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Hence, the well-known mind-body connection.
Aligned with this awareness is the complex interrelationship between the brain and the heart. Like any other organ, establishing harmony between these two is an essential step toward caring for your overall health. Thankfully, there are a plethora of practices and tools (hello, mind-body modalities!) you can employ to strengthen the tie between your physical, emotional, and mental dimensions and ensure a nearly continuous, serene state of inner equilibrium. And because attending to both your brain and heart should always be a top priority, here are some mind-body approaches to help you improve function and alleviate stress while keeping your heart beating strong and healthy.
Following the words of renowned Toltec spiritualist and The Four Agreements bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz, “just to breath is enough for us always to be happy, to enjoy life,” breathing is indeed at the heart of life. Aside from its visible, physical constituents (inhalation and exhalation), breathing consciously and intentionally can be a powerful, therapeutic practice that uses controlled breathing and mental focus to release mental, physical, and emotional stress.
When it comes to heart health and cardiovascular function, deep breathing allows you to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, soften the muscles around your neck and chest, slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and promote a general sense of focus and calmness. It also enables your cells and organs to receive more oxygen and keep stress-induced hormonal surges at bay.
While breathing techniques and exercises abound, one easy and less confusing way to get started is by simply making a conscious effort to tap into your breath as often as 3-5 times throughout your day, breathing deeply, unrushed, and purposely.
From assisting you to cope with stress to lowering high blood pressure (particularly systolic and diastolic blood pressure), there are multiple ways in which meditation has been taught to improve cardiovascular health. Like breathwork, it also aids in lessening the spikes of cortisol and other stress-responding hormones, decreasing tension, and furthering one’s quality of life.
If meditation isn’t yet a part of your daily routine, finding a version that resonates with you is vital. You can get started by signing up for a meditation class with a trained instructor, downloading a mediation app, or carving out time to sit quietly, direct your attention to your breathing, and thoroughly indulge in the present moment!
Through a yogic lens, softening and quieting the fluctuations of the mind (and its endless noise and dialogues) is one of the pillars of this millenary, universal practice. Yoga offers a divine path of radical transformation to soothe the mind, achieve inner harmony, heighten creativity, and help us acknowledge our true inherent nature.
From reducing chronic pain to boosting mental health, keeping a daily yoga can bring about immense, life-brightening benefits ⸺ heart health included! Yoga asanas, or the physical embodiment of this integrated mind-body system, may also strengthen the heart by raising blood flow and circulation, reducing blood glucose levels and heart rate, and promoting overall fitness and physical vitality.
While all of the practices mentioned above encourage a more extraordinary mind-body experience, mindful awareness can be thought of as one of the most fundamental threads weaving together these conscious approaches to the human experience. Mind-body modalities revolve around staying in and savoring the present moment, the only genuine opportunity to exercise change and promote healing while improving our ability to pay deliberate attention to our internal and external environments alike.
Mindfulness has also been shown to improve heart rate variability (HRV), lower cardiovascular stress, and promote a comprehensive sense of self-awareness in a nonjudgmental, self-compassionate manner. As you begin to incorporate these practices into your daily rhythms and further develop the axis of your human wisdom, you’ll find that persistence, self-love, and a curious attitude are vital in helping your mind, body, and heart flourish!