Heart based breathing is an easy technique with dramatic results. High cortisol, the stress hormone, equates to unhappiness, in most people. In a happiness study, a whopping 48% of people who had the highest cortisol reported being the most unhappy. Fortunately, focused heart based breathing exercises can help to lower cortisol.
Another study showed that a simple 30 minute exercise focused on heart rhythm, and practiced for one month, lowered participant cortisol levels by 23%, on average. If you needed any further incentive, the simple exercise also doubled participant levels of their DHEA or master hormone, otherwise known as the fountain of youth.
What does the heart do?
Before we get to the specifics of this simple heart based breathing exercise, understand that your heart does a phenomenal job, on a daily basis. It is auto rhythmic – it doesn’t need a hard-wired connection to the brain to keep beating. It beats 110,000 times a day and it produces enough power in just one hour to lift 1000 kilos, one metre off the ground!
Did you know that your thoughts are carried around by electricity? And guess what… the electromagnetic field around the heart is the most powerful of any organ in the body, with the electrical component around 50 x that of the brain, and the magnetic component 5,000 x stronger.
If you place heart cells from different people, or animals, on a petrie dish, they will start beating in unison. They synchronise and communicate! Different people’s brain cells on the other hand don’t communicate, they die.
The heart has cells called ICA cells, and they release neurotransmitters noradrenalin and dopamine. So it’s not just the brain which produces neurotransmitters. Managing these neurotransmitters is central to quitting smoking or drinking, sugar addiction or depression, for example.
Another chemical the heart releases is oxytocin, and your heart’s levels of oxytocin are as high as the oxytocin levels in your brain. This is significant because oxytocin affects maternal behaviour as well as the setting up of committed relationships. It also affects social interaction in terms of trust and tolerance, and the learning of social cues. So, a steady heart is promising for attracting rewarding relationships of all kinds. This is especially so as people can unconsciously sense another person’s heart rhythms, especially if they are chaotic rhythms.
The heart is communicating with the brain, but it sends far more information to the brain then the brain sends back to the heart. Researchers are still trying to understand the full implications of this.
What they’ve found so far is that those signals from the heart affect the brain centres that are involved in foresight. It has influence over cognitive processes – in both the left and right brain categories. These include:
- Impulse control
- Decision making
- Strategic thinking
- Reaction times
For a long time we considered these to be purely a domain of the brain. So, the brain is working hand in hand, with the heart. This is why I include heart based breathing in my client sessions, where appropriate.
- Bottom line – You can create peace within the body in the same way that you can create fear or worry.
- Practicing smooth heart based breathing makes your heart more resilient to changing conditions in the physical and emotional realms.
Heart based breathing exercise
Okay, so now you understand a little of how important it is to pay some attention to your heart. Try this:
1 – Breathe in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 5, breathing through the heart centre, making sure the transition from the in-breath to the out-breath is smooth. That is really important. Do this for a few minutes.
2 – Then think think of something that you are truly grateful for – something that makes your heart sing. Hold that precious thing in the centre of your heart as you continue the breathing. Allow yourself to really connect with your gratitude for this wonderful thing, at the centre of your heart. Do this for another few minutes.
3 – Think about all the wonderful things your heart does for you, as mentioned above (and these are just a sample). Now turn that gratitude that you are feeling, towards your heart. Focus that gratitude upon your heart.
4 – Finally, imagine your heart is smiling back at you, acknowledging your gratitude. Hold this feeling as you continue the heart based breathing, focusing on the heart centre.
This exercise should take between 5-30 minutes… the longer the better. It is immensely powerful because where gratitude exists, anxiety, depression and other related symptoms, simply cannot exist. It is a powerful little exercise and if you do it regularly, you can truly begin to repair your emotional health. For more help with trauma, anxiety, depression or related issues, contact me.