Updated: Mar 16
Research continues to grow on the fascinating heart muscle, teaching us that it is so much more than just an efficient pump that sustains life. The heart can actually be seen as an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more creativity, balance and intuitive capacity. We have known for years that the heart is the source of insight, emotion, and courage, however upon studying brain wave activity it has been discovered that stressful and depleting emotions including frustration and feeling overwhelmed led to increased disorder in higher brain centers and autonomic nervous systems. This abnormal heart rhythm adversely affects the functioning of nearly all bodily systems. Observations also showed that the heart acts as if it has a mind of its own, greatly influencing how we perceive and respond in our daily interactions. Multiple studies have shown that heart coherence is an optimal physiological state associated with increased cognitive function, self regulatory capacity, emotional stability, and resilience.
Now that the boring science is out there, I am going to get personal with you folks. I have been working as a physical therapist for 8 years now, and primarily with geriatrics in a retirement community or skilled nursing facility. In college I was diagnosed with ADD and prescribed adderall when having trouble studying for exams, of which I continued to take as I began to practice. This medication allowed me to power through the day with the greatest productivity, and have the energy to work out aggressively afterwards, often running, biking, or doing aggressive weight training/kung fu classes. But what I noticed most now in hindsight is that it also shut off my emotional centers and allowed me to disconnect from the personal aspect of my job and care that was often extremely depressing and burdening. It forced me to separate my work from my family mentally and physically, so much that I didn't even want to visit my grandparents when they were at the end of life in these facilities, for fear of experiencing any of the emotional ties.
It wasn’t until I began to practice yoga, specifically this LYT method of yoga that I tapped into my emotional and physical core and heart center, and gave me the strength I felt to start to decrease my medication intake. I began to see and feel with such a stronger compassion for those I cared for, that it absolutely tore me apart to watch how facilities like these were affected during COVID. All of their activities that promoted social connection, physical activity, and purpose were all canceled. Poor quality food was delivered to their doorstep in unhealthy styrofoam or plastic containers further contaminating them from any possible good nutrient value and taking away the physical act of making their own meals or at least walking from their rooms to the dining area. Only the most debilitated were allowed to receive physical therapy, as they furloughed most of my staff except for myself. I watched the immense social, physical and cognitive decline of most ALL of the residents, even those that were typically very high functioning. This just highlighted the absolute effects of social isolation, loneliness and depressions’ affects on our hearts and brain health.
My yoga practice allowed me the strength to continue my days, but also opened my mind to the possibility of more. This method teaches your body this immense sense of awareness that for most, and most often throughout the day we are so lacking. It trains the sympathetic nervous system when it needs to ramp up, but also the parasympathetic nervous system states of calming down. It opens the spaces in our hips, chest, and back leaving me feeling more open hearted, joyous, free, but yet strong and courageous. This courage I have developed made me compelled to leave my comfort zone and job I was working at for 5 years and start my own private practice for PT and yoga teaching to share this amazing method with the world.
The heart is so strong and powerful and while yes it needs exercise and a healthy diet to function well, it also needs stress management techniques, physical touch, emotional and social connection to truly thrive. My LYT yoga practice has opened my mind and my heart to all of these things, and my hope is that it can do the same for you! Come check out one of my classes to see for yourself! Bring a friend and get half off, just email or direct message me for more information!
At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!
Your Physical Therapist,
McCraty, Rollin. (2015). SCIENCE OF THE HEART: Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance. (Volume 2). Heart Math Institute. www.heartmath.org
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.