Let’s get to the heart of the matter…

Our body is a sea of information. Each organ, tendon, muscle contributes a unique perspective on our entire system. We could focus on any one of them to better understand how we move, who we are, and why we choose to do what we do. Today’s pick: Heart.

My heart is a little bit bigger than the size of my fist. Your heart is a little bit bigger than the size of yours. As we developed in utero our hearts went through many transformations. They first appeared like the heart of a fish.  Then they morphed into a frog heart, snake was next. Finally they developed into the 4-chambered masterpiece that is the human life pump.

Our hearts are also more than muscle. 60 – 65% of the tissue is made up of neural cells, the same kinds of cells that make up the brain. Research is beginning to show that the heart has a larger effect on our system than previously imagined.

Take a moment. Pause and deepen your breath. Can you feel your heart beating in your chest? Place your hands there. Can you feel it?

If not, take heart. And then take a quick jog around your living room and try again.

I recently came across an article about nurturing heart-brain development in infants and found some surprising and amazing information. “The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon” says author Joe Chilton Pearce. “We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings. Molecular biologists have discovered that the heart is the body’s most important endocrine gland. In response to our experience of the world, it produces and releases a major hormone, ANF — which stands for Atriol Neuriatic Factor — that profoundly effects every operation in the limbic structure, or what we refer to as the “emotional brain.” This includes the hippocampal area where memory and learning take place, and also the control centers for the entire hormonal system. And neurocardiologists have found that 60 to 65% of the cells of the heart are actually neural cells, not muscle cells as was previously believed. They are identical to the neural cells in the brain, operating through the same connecting links called ganglia, with the same axonal and dendritic connections that take place in the brain, as well as through the very same kinds of neurotransmitters found in the brain.”

He goes on to say, “Quite literally, in other words, there is a “brain” in the heart, whose ganglia are linked to every major organ in the body, to the entire muscle spindle system that uniquely enables humans to express their emotions. About half of the heart’s neural cells are involved in translating information sent to it from all over the body so that it can keep the body working as one harmonious whole. And the other half make up a very large, unmediated neural connection with the emotional brain in our head and carry on a twenty-four-hour-a-day dialogue between the heart and the brain that we are not even aware of.”

If this is true, then our hearts have some key information for us as humans living on this planet. In Forrest Yoga (the style of yoga my classes are based on) we do a lot of body tracking. And the heart is a key focal spot. This style tells us that our body has innate wisdom and healing information for us. When we listen and feel deeply into a spot we can receive unique wisdom that will help us on our life path.

Lately I’ve felt a lot of tension and expansion in and around my heart, especially on the left side. I’ve asked my heart what it needs. I’ve stopped. I’ve listened. And a phrase came to me. “I just want to let go.” At this time, here is my interpretation…Freedom. It’s about freedom. Freedom in my connections and freedom in my mind and heart to be who I am, love what I love, and expand beyond my old, crusty patterns. This may sound like I just got on the Woo Woo train and am headed to Looney Town quick. But I’ll tell you what, this shit works.

Here’s another example. For a long while I had persistent pain in my shoulders, especially on my right side. I did the same process as above during one of my yoga practices and received another nugget of wisdom. “Use your pelvic floor muscles.” So I did. I used my abs and my pelvic floor muscles to help me transition between poses and to support me while in them. And my shoulder pain significantly diminished. Why? Because my shoulders weren’t doing all the work anymore. They got some support.

Try it sometime. Breathe into the front, sides, and back of your heart. Can you feel your breath surrounding it? Listen, feel. As Ana Forrest says, “Use your finest quality of attention.” Imagine your heart is a dear friend. Ask your heart a question such as what do you need today? Or what would feed you? And then see what comes. If you don’t get anything, keep breathing. And go again. If you do receive something, honor it. Take it with you into your day and see what happens.

Let me know your thoughts and feelings around the affairs of your heart. I promise to honor your words. Cross my heart and hope to die.

P.S. I am not a heart expert. I am open to learning more about this topic. If you are interested in opening up a conversation with constructive criticism please provide an email address to get in touch, otherwise I will not approve your comments.

Check out these links for more information.
India Times
Expressing Life’s Wisdom

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6 Responses to Heart

  1. Jack says:

    There’s a lot of misinformation in this post. You should review more scientific articles relating to this phenomenon. This article is a slightly more rational summary of the facts: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/spirituality/science-of-spirituality/Brain-heart-and-gut-minds/articleshow/8647137.cms?intenttarget=no

    Note that the neuronal configuration in your heart doesn’t actually constitute “thinking.” While the average brain has 100 billion neurons, and the gut has about 100 million (the same as a cat), the heart only has about 40,000 neurons. That’s barely enough to carry out autonomic heart functions. Also consider that heart neurons aren’t actually necessary or informative. See also: people with artificial hearts or transplanted hearts.

    Lastly, be careful of the so-called “Institute of HeartMath.” This is a non-profit org with no scientific backing that is headed by a charismatic leader named Doc Childre who is not actually a doctor. In fact, he has no science credentials whatsoever. What HeartMath does is build up a large body of pseudo-scientific sounding papers that they use to market their $199 emWave device that is supposed to somehow help people be healthier. What the device actually does is unclear, and its efficacy has never been peer reviewed.

    • electrickat says:

      Hello Jack,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I appreciate your comments and feedback. Know that I am open to learning more about this topic. Please understand that I am not attempting to be fully “rational” here. I value scientific research. I also value personal experience. So, in the spirit of going deeper, I have a few questions for you.

      1. What is your background? Are you a medical doctor or body-related scientist?
      2. I am wondering why your source via the Times of India is trustworthy to you?
      3. Can you please describe what in this post is misinformation and why?

      Oh, one more. Did you try any of the exercises in this post? I’d be curious about your experiences.


  2. Christina says:

    I love this post with all my heart!! Nicely done Kat, as always. I know the stomach has a lot of serotonin receptors and that there is more to “listening to your gut” than just a cute phrase, but the heart-mind connection is new to me (from a science perspective). Thanks for sharing. And thanks for the advanced asana of listening. I tend to put all of my focus on a spot into feeling, which is good, but I will definitely be doing more asking and listening next time I practice.

  3. Rosalee says:

    Beautiful post Kat! Are you aware of Heartmath? If not, I think you would really like their book/research.

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