A healthy heart depends in part on having a good diet and exercising, but did you know that there’s more you can do to keep your ticker in tip-top shape? The ways you manage stress can really impact your heart health. Have you ever unconsciously tapped or rubbed your chest when you feel tense? Or how about when you get home after a long day, have you ever noticed yourself exhaling deeply as you sit down? Those are natural and instinctive movements that help human beings release Fire energy from the chest through the Conception Vessel Meridian. From an eastern perspective, the “Water Up, Fire Down” principle of energy movement relates to heart health. Here’s how diet, exercise, and stress management relate to “Water Up, Fire Down” and the health of your heart.
A meridian is typically described as a pathway of energy points, like a railway line through which energy passes in the body. The particular meridian we are focusing on today is your Conception Vessel Meridian, located on the front of your body. This meridian starts near the center of your pelvic cavity. It runs down to the base of your pelvis, back up through your abdomen to your chest and neck, circles around your mouth, and meets up with your Governing Vessel Meridian (which runs from the back of the body over the top of the head) between your nose and the upper lip.
The Governing Vessel Meridian, located on the back of the body, is related to the “Water Up” part of healthy energy circulation by circulating cool Water energy from the kidneys to the brain. The Conception Vessel Meridian, on the other hand, helps bring “Fire Down” from your chest to your abdomen.
Hot Fire energy is not inherently harmful unless it remains stuck in the areas of your head and heart. Healthy Fire energy should circulate all the way down to your lower abdomen along the path of the Conception Vessel Meridian where it can warm your Dahn-jon, or energy center. The Fire energy in your Dahn-jon stimulates the kidneys. You can imagine that having a warm Dahn-jon helps to “boil” the Water energy of the kidneys so that it rises smoothly. This completes the full cycle of “Water Up, Fire Down,” which is one of the most important Energy Principles in Body & Brain Yoga.
A dysfunctional Conception Vessel Meridian relates to coldness and stiffness in the lower abdomen because of a lack of Fire energy. It is said to lead to fatigue, indigestion, menstrual irregularities, infertility, and even difficulties in pregnancy and labor.
Energy blockages, especially in your chest, can prevent Fire energy from the heart from being able to circulate downward. When blocked, heat naturally builds up in your chest until it reaches your head, which is said to contribute to various problems including headaches. It also can make it hard for you to breathe deeply.
Opening energy blockages in your chest is one of the most important benefits you can expect of Body & Brain Yoga! In class, you’ll start with light stretching, followed by chest tapping or shaking, and finally energy meditation (Jigam) to open your heart chakra. In addition to the various chest exercises performed in regular classes, Body & Brain Yoga offers a powerful heart-centered program known as the Finding True Self workshop.
All of these exercises can help you “open your heart” and improve the flow of Fire energy through the Conception Vessel Meridian. Below you’ll find more exercises for a healthy heart that focus on unblocking the Conception Vessel Meridian. If you practice regularly you should notice less stress and congestion and a better sense of energy circulation through your whole body.
1. Stand with legs shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly. Bend your elbows 90-degrees, make fists, and raise your arms upward. Hold the lower body still and twist the upper body and arms from side to side from your waist.
2. Keep your eyes fixed ahead and do not turn your head. Push your chest forward and keep your arms up at shoulder height. Open your mouth slightly and breathe out to release the hot Fire energy from your heart.
3. Repeat 50 times in the beginning and, after practicing this for a while, work up to 300 times.
1. Interlock your fingers and gently tap your thumb in the middle of your chest for 3 minutes. While tapping your chest, say, “Ah-h-h!” to release stress and congested energy from your chest.
2. Release your fingers and tap lightly all over your chest with your palms. Focus on the areas where you feel achy and stiff and breathe out any heavy energy accumulated in those areas.
3. After tapping, sweep your chest, making a circle with overlapped palms and exhaling deeply.
1. Lie on your stomach. Place your arms on either side of your body with your palms touching the floor.
2. Inhale and slowly raise your upper body, then gently tilt your head back while concentrating on your spine. Make sure you can breathe comfortably.
3. Exhale and return to Step 1. Repeat several times.
Now that you’ve gotten familiar with some exercises for a healthy heart, let’s focus on heart-healthy foods. Exercise is only one way to improve your heart health. What you put into your body is also a big part of your overall health, especially for your heart.
Below you’ll find some tips for a heart healthy diet including specific foods for the heart and ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Rich with antioxidants, dark chocolate is said to be “good for the heart.” But why is this? Dark chocolate is associated with a lowered risk for heart disease and plaque in the arteries. To incorporate dark chocolate into your diet, try finding one that is 70% cocoa or higher (to cut down on sugar) and mix it in with your snacks, yogurt, smoothies, and baked goods!
A cup of green tea can be soothing and delicious, but did you know that it is also good for your heart? From reducing inflammation, to lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure - the antioxidants in green tea are full of benefits! If you’re not up for a cup of hot green tea try a green tea extract or green tea supplements to get your daily dose.
Walnuts have been said to reduce heart disease and decrease bad cholesterol levels. Why is this? Walnuts are packed with nutrients like fiber, magnesium, copper and manganese. Not sure how to incorporate walnuts into your diet? Try adding walnuts to a salad, mix them in with granola or yogurt, or grab a handful when you’re craving a snack! Nuts are a great source of protein and can help keep you full between meals.
With all these exercise and diet ideas, you’ve got a great repertoire to keep your heart healthy and get energy flowing through your Central Vessel Meridian. Next time you’re feeling stressed or congested, give one of these tips a try!