The Heart of Wellness
By Kim Fuller
“Listen to your heart.”
You’ve probably heard it before — the phrase, but what about the heart itself? Perhaps you’ve listened to the steady cadence of your organ’s vital beats through the ear buds of a stethoscope, or felt its gentle pumping from the surface of your skin.
Heart health is not as easily defined as its beats per minute, however, and its physical and metaphysical wellness comes from much more than meets the ear.
Keep Your Beat
“Heart disease is a unique disease in that you don’t necessarily feel bad as it develops and worsens,” explains Dr. Jeffrey L. Boone of the Boone Heart Institute in Denver. “Often, the first sign of heart disease in an individual is a heart attack, stroke or sudden death.”
Dr. Boone says that since the heart is central to all the body’s main complex systems, it’s very important to maintain a good diet, frequent exercise and stress management to ensure good cardiovascular health and overall well being.
Standard indicators are very important as well, he says, such as family history, lifestyle, diet, history of smoking, alcohol use and cholesterol level.
“Advanced blood tests now give us sophisticated measurements of cholesterol particle size and number, searching for underlying genetic issues unique to each individual,” Dr. Boone explains. “Advanced imaging techniques can identify the “breeding ground” for dangerous plaque that could eventually lead to heart attack or stroke. With these issues identified, we can aggressively treat the inflammation before it ever leads to an adverse event.”
Heart Health Beyond Biology
Julia Clarke, yoga studio coordinator and instructor at the Vitality Center in Vail, as well as an Ayurvedic wellness consultant, shares that one of her favorite bodies of heart-centric study comes from the Heartmath Institute, which has used modern science to understand that the human heart has an electromagnetic field that is bigger than that of the human brain.
“The studies suggest that the heart field is an average of 8 to 10 feet, and is powerful enough to shift not only our moods and health, but those of the people around us,” Clarke explains. “Thinking thoughts of gratitude has been shown to improve emotional and physical well-being, and it’s also perfectly possible to shift the energy of a room full of people through one individual’s positivity.”
Clarke’s special upcoming class at the Vitality Center on Feb. 14, “Starting Hearts: A Heart Opening Yoga Class” — appropriately held on Valentine’s Day — is a donation-based hour-long practice, with all proceeds going to Starting Hearts, a non-profit dedicated to saving the lives of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) victims through free Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training and access programs.
“I think one of the downfalls of living in such a science-driven era is that we are sometimes mistakenly think the physical body and the emotional body are separate,” Clarke shares. “How can they possibly be?”
The class will begin with a very mindful, slow moving meditation, Clarke says, meant to invite practitioners into a space of expanded physical and psychological awareness.
“We will cultivate some heat with sore strengthening and twists that are vital to stay steady in the face of adversity, and to protect the body in backbends,” explains Clarke. “All before culminating with some fantastic heart-opening poses that will leave students feeling energized and courageous.”
Heart-Opening Yoga Poses
Clarke says simple backbends like Cobra, Locust and Camel are safe and accessible poses to do for heart-space expansion. It’s important to do these poses with strong legs, she explains, and without clenching the muscles of the gluts.
“Think about tractioning the spine and making it longer,” says Clarke, “Rather than crunching the back. It’s important to have a good teacher and strong understanding of alignment when venturing into poses like Wheel.”
Heart Opening Yoga Class with Julia Clarke
- February 14 at 12:00 p.m.
- The Vitality Center at the Vail Mountain Lodge
- Donation class benefiting Starting Hearts