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How Does Meditation Affect the Heart?
We hear a lot about the spiritual and emotional benefits of meditation, but meditation also offers physical health benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system. In fact, there are meditations that you can do specifically to draw attention and intention to your heart.
Heart health benefits
A number of studies show that meditation can decrease your heart rate, slow your rate of respiration, lower your blood pressure and decrease the number of stress hormones circulating in your bloodstream. Furthermore, the American Heart Association issued a report on the impact meditation has on people suffering from atherosclerosis, a condition where fat builds up on the inside of artery walls. According to the report, a regimen of meditation resulted in a significant decrease in arterial wall thickness among study participants. This decrease in arterial wall thickness translates into a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
The American Journal of Hypertension reported another study showing a statistically significant reduction in blood pressure in a group of participants that meditated, compared to a control group that did not. Meditation also offers heart-healing benefits to those who already suffer from heart disease. Patients with heart disease who meditate regularly experience a lower rate of heart attack, stroke and death than non-meditating patients, according to a study presented to the American Heart Association in November 2009.
Heart healing meditation
Because the heart is the center of life and love, it can be a wonderfully healing focus for your meditation. To bring attention to the energy of your heart, try practicing what is called heart chakra meditation. Many who meditate have found that chakra meditation helps release sadness, reduce fear and increase feelings of love and compassion.
Heart chakra meditation: How to meditate from your heart
- Begin your session by sitting comfortably.
- Bring your attention to your body, relaxing and releasing muscle tension.
- Focus on your breathing and let go of the stresses and noise around you.
- Next, gently rub your palms together to warm and energize them.
- Then, place your right palm on your chest over your heart, and put your left hand on top of the right.
- With your eyes closed, imagine your heart, the center of your body, glowing with radiant energy. Feel the center of your chest warm, glowing, radiant, and full of energy.
- Imagine how that energy radiates out to the rest of your body, and stay with that image for a short while.
- Once you’ve become one with that energy, send it into areas of your body or mind where there is pain and out through your palms to loved ones or to the world around you. Stay with that feeling for a while.
- Then, begin to draw your attention back to your heart, back to your breath and slowly end your meditation session.
Incorporating a short meditation session into your daily life can have a positive effect on the physical and emotional well-being of your heart.
5 ways to awaken the heart chakra
Your heart chakra is the fourth of the seven chakras. It is at the center of the body in the heart region. As with any of the chakras, the heart chakra can become blocked. Heart chakra healing focuses on compassion. These five ways to awaken and attain heart chakra meditation healing can be easily practiced at any time.
Control of breath is a key to anahata, or heart chakra healing. Anahata yoga combines breath with yoga postures and meditation. Renowned spiritual teacher and author Pramahansa Yogananda inspired Anahata yoga with his words to student Ana Costa. He stated that having a “caved-in chest” would cut off oxygen to the lungs, and could cause issues with the spine.
Costa went on to develop specific exercises focusing on breath and Anahata yoga postures. Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, and Garidasana, Eagle Pose, are two of the poses that open the chest area. Deep, cleansing breaths with proper posture stimulate heart chakra healing.
Swami Baba Ramdev, author of Pranayama: Its Philosophy and Practice, identifies yoga as vital to awakening Kundalini. "Kundalini" is the Sanskrit word for coil, and identifies energy located at the base of the spine. As you awaken Kundalini through breath, meditation and yoga, it rises through the body, awakening each individual chakra. As you practice breath and pose, the anahata chakra is awakened.
The heart chakra is the source of caring. Author Wayne C. Allen notes that the heart chakra is the center for agape, or selfless, unconditional love and empathy. Practicing goodwill toward others is important for heart chakra healing and awakening to take place.
Swami Mukundananda, the founder of Jagadguru Kripalu Yoga, has taught meditation as a “path to happiness.” It is one of the key ways to awaken the heart chakra. Find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted for several minutes. You should sit either in the traditional lotus position with legs crossed, or with your back straight. As you control your breath and move your awareness to the center of your chest, utilize mantras, affirmations and visualization to focus on heart chakra healing.
According to Buddhist teacher Tarthang Tulku, the heart chakra is the center for the feeling of completion. As you begin to awaken the heart chakra, true anahata healing begins to take place.
Forgiveness is the choice to release any bitterness you harbor toward another person. It is about freeing yourself from resentment that has built up toward others. In the act of releasing negative emotions through forgiveness, you create heart chakra healing.
In the teachings of Maitreya, said to be an Ascended Master and holder of the Christ essence, when the heart is full of anger and resentment, it is closed. In the act of releasing another from the “debt” they owe you, you also open the heart chakra. It is important to note that, while forgiveness toward others is important, forgiveness of self is equally as significant in awakening the heart chakra.
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