Heart-brain coherence

heart brain coherence

Heart-Brain Coherence

During these unprecedented times many of us are looking for ways to lower our anxiety and find peace.

Learning to navigate our emotions and to understand their effects on the brain is imperative. Many of us are turning toward mind/body practices like meditation and mindfulness to help restore ourselves to a state of balance and the benefits have been well researched.

Emerging research adds another component to mental and emotional wellness.

Numerous studies, including those performed by the HeartMath Institute Research Center, suggest that the heart and positive emotions can have an impact on the brain. These studies on the field of neurocardiology explore how the heart communicates with the brain and how the activity of the heart influences our emotions, intuition, and health.

Neurocardiology Basics:

The field of neurocardiology examines the relationship between the cardiovascular system and the nervous system.

  • The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the blood vessels.
  • The nervous system consists of the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord)
  •  The peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside of the central nervous system).

Functionally, the nervous system is divided into the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

  • The somatic nervous system is under voluntary control and the autonomic nervous system is involuntary.

The autonomic nervous system is further divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

  • The sympathetic nervous system activates the fight, flight or freeze response.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a relaxed state of rest and digest.

Additionally, neurocardiologists discovered that within the heart there is neural network that can be described as a brain, known as the heart-brain or intrinsic cardiac nervous system. The complexity of this system allows the heart-brain to act independently of the cranial brain and to send messages from the heart to the brain.

Learning to regulate the heart-brain can create a state of integration and balance termed heart-brain coherence. The heart-brain plays a role in memory, decision making, feeling, self-regulation, and intuition.

How does it work?

heart brain coherence

The Autonomic Nervous System sends messages through the body by efferent and afferent pathways.

  • Efferent: Descending from the brain to the peripheral body
  • Afferent: Ascending from a nerve receptor to the brain

It’s commonly known that the efferent pathways of the ANS participate in the regulation of the heart.

However, research has found that the afferent pathways from the heart send more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.

To put this complex process in simple terms, information is sent from the heart to the brain by the nerve fibers of the vagus nerves also called the 10th cranial nerves. They are the longest cranial nerves and the main cranial nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, 80% of the nerves fibers of the vagus nerves are afferent, so messages from the intrinsic cardiac nervous system travel up to the brain by the afferent pathways of the vagus nerves.

The vagus nerves supply most of the organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavities, including the heart, stomach, and lungs, and carry motor impulses to the larynx and pharynx. They innervate the heart’s sinoatrial node (SA node) and play a significant role in heart rate variability (HRV).

Therefore, with science in mind, learning to connect to your heart will help you feel more balanced.

The Practice

Heart-brain coherence:

To enter into heart-brain coherence, you are going to combine a clear intension with uplifting emotions such as gratitude, compassion, love or joy.

  • For example, you may have the clear intension “To manifest healing or abundance or a new job.”
  • At the same time, feel positive, uplifting emotions while you are visualizing your intension.

By focusing and embodying these emotions you will feel your energy shift to a higher level of consciousness, ultimately, raising your vibration.

Here is a link to a new moon meditation based on Heart-Brain Coherence.

For more information on Heart-Brain coherence please go to the HeartMath Institute website.

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