SMARTer bodies

Tag Archives: the mind

Feeling Stuck? Alicia Suarez Tells Us to Pay Attention.

Our good friend and awesome yoga teacher/movement person/anatomy fiend, Alicia Suárez, sends out newsletters sharing her experience and insights.  This month’s in particular struck a cord.    Here we share what she wrote about feeling stuck and getting unstuck.  We hope you find her reminder about cultivating awareness as helpful as we do.  Then sign up for her newsletters and expect more goodness:

When making a decision one usually checks out the options at hand, considers the “pros and cons” and picks. But, have you ever considered that the number of options one sees as available is based on what one is already predisposed to notice?

While it might take effort, slowing down and being more mindful might reveal options that we did not realize we had. This is something that I am currently trying to do. In order to explore some of the vast number of possibilities out there that I never considered, I am trying to expand my focus and allow myself to sense beyond my usual habits.
Simply put, I am “shutting down the autopilot.” And, in doing so, I am forcing myself to pay more attention to the movement and thinking patterns I have developed over the years. For example, I have a ritual of wiping my desk clean every morning before I start working…a little OCD perhaps, but it is a habit that I find very useful as it helps to ground me and shift gears for work. On the other hand, a habit that I have discovered that it is not so useful is my tendency to chew food on the left side of my mouth. I have no idea how long I have been doing this but at least I now know why the left side of my jaw is always so tired and tense and can choose to do something different. Like chewing on both sides…

Becoming aware of habits (mine and my clients’) is at the core of my teaching and personal practice. In my experience, being mindful does, indeed, require effort and a desire to unravel, at times, years of unawareness. Although sometimes not an easy task, it has been profoundly healing for me and, to top it all off, it makes me feel more “in the moment.” Woohoo!

Turn on Your Heart Light, er…Brain?!

Have you heard of the “cardiac brain?” You might be familiar with the concept of the stomach/gut/enteric nervous system as the “second brain.” There is now a body of growing research that supports the theory that the heart functions as its own “brain” and exhibits its own consciousness, “Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional “brain.”

Let’s just dive right in:

Research in the new discipline of neurocardiology shows that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated center for receiving and processing information. The nervous system within the heart (or “heart brain”) enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Moreover, numerous experiments have demonstrated that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the function of higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.

The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. Compared to the electromagnetic field produced by the brain, the electrical component of the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and permeates every cell in the body. The magnetic component is approximately 5000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body with sensitive magnetometers.

We have demonstrated, for example, that brain rhythms naturally synchronize to the heart’s rhythmic activity, and also that during sustained feelings of love or appreciation, the blood pressure and respiratory rhythms, among other oscillatory systems, entrain to the heart’s rhythm.

This may sound pretty far out right here. Obviously, there are many implications involved if the theories presented continue to prove positive (which they do). We take certain terms for granted like, “emotional intelligence,” but in the context of these findings emotional intellect takes on a much more serious meaning. What about the implications of emotional health and wellbeing on the physical body? On this blog we often refer to the “physical,” “emotional,” and “mental” bodies and their interconnectedness.  That being said, if we take the third bullet point above to be indicative of how emotional states effect our physiology than everything we have said before about the importance of working with emotions when rehabilitating the physical (and obviously the mental) body is much more true and important than previously understood. (By the way, here’s a good place to mention a book, Molecules of Emotion. If you haven’t read it yet…Just Read It!).

There is an institute that, gratefully, dedicates its funds and time to studying the phenomenon of the heart-brain. It is called HeartMath and its study of the intelligent heart has shaken (“vibrated” if you will) previously held scientific beliefs about the human body to their core. HeartMath believes in and uses scientific research that proves that the heart can independently send messages to the brain, effectively doing away with the one-way only brain dominant brain-to-heart communication model:

The Laceys noticed that this simple model only partially matched actual physiological behavior. As their research evolved, they found that the heart seemed to have its own peculiar logic that frequently diverged from the direction of the autonomic nervous system. The heart appeared to be sending meaningful messages to the brain that it not only understood, but obeyed. Even more intriguing was that it looked as though these messages could affect a person’s behavior. Shortly after this, neurophysiologists discovered a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could “inhibit” or “facilitate” the brain’s electrical activity.

Wow, Wow, Wow…Awesome. A piece written in 2007, by Professor Mohamed Omar Salem sums up nicely that there is now room in the scientific field, where there wasn’t previously, for the exploration of what we have always called the “spirit” within the physical body. No longer must we believe that conscious awareness originates only in the brain. (This article my seem a little “woo woo” for some people. If it is go back to HeartMath where “Neurocardiology” is grounded in hard science.).

The main point of this post is to share new research, to stay true to our belief that one should question everything, and to whet your appetites into exploring new ways in which our perceptions of and interactions with the world may be redefined. The video below, from HeartMath, demonstrates how exploring this new scientific field can illuminate how we effect one another in our daily interactions. The implication is that the better we behave and feel towards other people and ourselves, the better the physical bodies do. We’ve said that for a long time, but now we are closer to having “legitimate” proof.”

Muscle Memory: Can Your Muscles Remember Things?

It’s something that almost all of us do. Remember the last time a friend told you about an accident that happened to them? Like maybe how they may have burned their hand while cooking, or slipped on a wet surface and fell. When they describe it to you, your muscles tense up, and you “remember” when an instance like that has happened to you. That is muscle memory in action!  As living organisms, we human beings remember not just with our minds, but with our bodies as well.  “Muscle Memory” is something that we are coming to understand more and more about. Read More

Guest Blogging about Insomnia

We have the privilege of being guest writers on a wonderful blog about curing insomnia.  Kathryn Watson a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist and Life Coach is the owner of the Stop Insomnia Blog.  She has worked with thousands of people who came to her for various reasons but most had one thing in common. Night after night they had trouble sleeping. They couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. Without it their life was doomed to one series of frustrations and failures after another. Read More

Mind Over Matter? – How a Positive Attitude Can Protect You from Depression and Illness

Having a positive attitude, or being as optimistic as possible, is something that many self-help gurus like Tony Robbins and Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) have been talking about for decades. People have varying opinions on the efficacy of a “positive attitude”. Some people even go so far as to say that it’s all a bunch of new-agey hocus-pocus! But it would seem that Covey and Robbins, among many others are right. And you don’t have to look in a mirror every morning and repeat “I am GREAT!”—well, unless you want too! Read More