Women’s HeartsApr 30, 2022 08:00PM ● By Leah Martinson
When it comes to the prevention of heart disease, the focus has been on diet, exercise and stress management. These are all vital components in its prevention, but equally important are emotional and energetic health.
In Ayurveda, the physical heart is within the region of the heart chakra, also known as the Anahata. Recognized by most Eastern spiritual philosophies, the chakras are energy centers in the body said to resemble a wheel. There are countless chakras throughout the body with seven of them being the primary energy centers. Each energy center is thought to be connected to a nerve network that supplies the various vital organs in the body. The heart chakra is closely connected to the physical heart and is the energy center that is most strongly connected to emotions. Unprocessed and/or stuck emotions cause a blockage or restriction of energy flow to the heart chakra which can manifest physically as heart disease.
The term “broken heart syndrome” is actually a rapid reversive weakening of the heart muscles brought on by a physical or emotional stressor. There are typically no other metabolic markers that would indicate heart issues; it is purely a weakening of the heart in response to stress. The primary emotions involved in broken heart syndrome are grief, fear, extreme anger and shock.
When there is an accumulation of unprocessed emotions and then an extreme emotional stressor occurs, it takes a toll on the heart and can result in a variety of cardiac issues. Stuffing or ignoring emotional experiences is less than desirable. Honoring the time, space and energy needed for “feeling” feelings in order to allow them to move on is a commitment not very well supported by today’s fast-paced, overworked, stressed-out culture. Most people did not grow up learning about emotions and how to be with them.
Beginning to lean into emotions, so they do not stay stuck in the body and cause otherwise preventable illnesses, is the beginning. It starts with giving one’s self permission to feel the deepest of our feelings and trust that we will not get swept away by a tidal wave of emotion that is too big for us to weather. To change a culture that does not yet fully support the human experience of strong emotion comes down to the quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” By giving ourselves permission to start this process instead of waiting for it to become common practice, we become a part of the movement toward normalizing and honoring emotions.
Once we have given ourselves permission to start dipping our toes in the sea of feelings, or maybe we are already a dipper and it is time to dive deeper, try a version of one of these three practices to support emotional well-being:
1. Cultivate presence through quieting the mind. Emotions are neither logical nor rational and trying to process them with thought will only result in an endless feedback loop that causes more pain. Through training our minds to rest and allowing our presence to be with our body, we can tune into what we are feeling, where we are feeling it and what we need to allow the feeling to move through us rather than get stuck. There are a variety of meditation, mindfulness and breathwork practices that can help support our minds in quieting down so we can drop into our bodies.
2. Notice and release judgement. It is very common to judge ourselves for the things we think and feel. We are our own worst critic. Respond to emotional experiences the way we would respond to a child in pain. We would not judge a child for feeling sad about a friend saying something hurtful. When it is us though, our ego starts doing all kinds of judgement gymnastics to prove how it was probably our fault, we deserved it in some way or we are over-reacting, to name just a few of the common judgements we often make of ourselves and our feelings.
Once we begin practicing the quieting of the mind, we may be able to notice when these judgements start coming in. Then, acknowledge it as a judgement, thank the ego for trying to help, and respectfully decline the input. Shift the focus to sending love and compassion in that moment. Extending the love inward as we would extend to a child will start to dissolve the judgement.
3. Let it flow. With the awareness in our body and ability to notice and release judgement, we are providing ourselves the support needed to allow the emotions to be felt. Perhaps this means having a fantastic ugly cry, turning on some rage music and screaming it out, or curling up on the couch with our favorite fuzzies and just allowing ourselves to feel. Whatever it is, we need to allow emotions to move and give ourselves permission to do it. Once the emotions have had their time to move, we will be ready to let them go.
At times, there will be a need to soothe the body in some way to complete the cycle. Depending on the emotion, there can be stress hormones released and a need for an outlet for those stress hormones. It could be going for a run, taking a yoga class, getting out in nature, taking a hot bath, or whatever brings comfort and allows the body the opportunity for a release.
The more we learn about the relationship between emotions and physical health, the more power we have to take charge of our health. We know it is important to eat healthy, exercise, reduce stress and minimize exposure to toxins. We are now coming to understand some of the missing pieces related to the connection between our minds, bodies and spirits. This is another step toward being whole and integrated.
Remember, when it comes to the heart, unprocessed emotions like anger and sadness are just as detrimental as fried food and being sedentary. The good news is, we have the power to allow ourselves to feel our feelings so they do not weigh so heavy on our hearts.
Leah Martinson is a board-certified health and wellness coach, licensed massage therapist, reiki practitioner and owner of Visionairium, in Minneapolis. She enjoys helping individuals connect to their heart center and heal unresolved emotions so they can experience optimal health. Just in time for Mother’s Day, she is offering a special that includes a 90-minute reiki and massage session for just $125. To learn more and to book an appointment, visit Visionairium.com
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