The heart is a critical physiological and energetic junction point in the body. Although its physiological role for providing oxygenated blood to the entire body is well understood by modern medicine, there is a deeper mental, emotional, and spiritual role that the heart plays in the human body.
The Heart Chakra
The physical heart correlates to an energetic center known as the heart chakra, which is associated with the wisdom sheath. Therefore, development of inner wisdom and heart health are interrelated.
Emotions such as compassion, altruism, and unconditional love are the natural byproducts of a healthy heart chakra. Thus, the development of these emotional qualities directly supports the strength of the physical heart.
All 3 Doshas Play a Role in Heart Health
Although the heart is one of the main locations of the Vata dosha, all three doshas play an important role in heart health. An imbalance in any one of the doshas can lead to heart disease.
As with all disease, digestion is always the foundation for health. Correcting the dosha imbalance in the gut with a dosha-specific diet and herbs is always one of the most important steps to reversing any chronic condition.
Dietary guidelines for heart health are based on the unique needs of the individual depending on which dosha is out of balance, rather than a general dietary prescription for heart health.
Ojas & Your Heart
Ojas—the vital substance of life that produces vitality and longevity—is stored in the heart. This “fountain of youth” is naturally created within our own bodies under the right conditions.
One particular form of ojas resides as “eight drops in the heart.” When this ojas is depleted, it results in the cessation of life.
There are specific foods that promote the formation of ojas and therefore a healthy heart, such as dates and ghee.
Reversing Heart Disease – Ayurveda Style
Here are a few other key points to reversing heart disease using Ayurveda’s holistic view of the heart. As you’ll probably notice, heart health is much more than just monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The Heart Is the Seat for Transformation of the Mind
This is why mental and emotional stress directly disrupt the energy of the heart and can contribute to cardiac disease.
As a neurologist, this was difficult for me to understand since my medical training was biased towards the brain’s control over cardiac function. However, as an Ayurvedic practitioner, I came to understand that the heart directly influences neurochemistry. Subtle energies of the heart actually mold the mind to become mature, calm and balanced.
The mind, in a sense, is born out of the quality of the emotional development of the heart chakra. Research from the Heart Math Institute supports this perspective by showing how even the physiological variations in our heartbeat can impact thoughts and neurotransmission.
This is why meditation and trauma-release therapies are so important for managing heart disease. Additionally, herbs such as ashwagandha and shankhpushpi, which help to reduce the impact of chronic stress, can also directly impact heart health. Another herb, arjuna, is specifically cardio-protective.
Connection Between the Heart & Respiratory System
The heart sits in physical proximity to the lungs. Oxygen-poor blood is pumped from the heart through the lungs, where it is once again filled with life-sustaining oxygen.
In Ayurveda, there is also a channel in the heart connected to the respiratory system that circulates prana, or life force, to the entire body.
The concept of prana encompasses the importance of oxygenation for the body, but it goes beyond just oxygenation. Prana is linked to our ability to energize our body through controlling breath. It is also associated with our capacity to connect to the deeper wisdom within us, which helps us to develop qualities such as compassion, altruism and unconditional love.
Prana is our connection to the source of all life. That is why doing pranayama, or breathing exercises, is important in treating heart disease in Ayurveda.
Connection Between the Heart & Blood/Lymph
Blood is constantly flowing through the heart. Lymphatic fluid is initially derived from blood and ultimately returns back into the circulatory system to combine with blood.
Supporting the regular unobstructed flow of blood and lymph is one of the most important aspects of heart health in Ayurveda. This includes doing daily exercises such as yoga and stretching, which circulates blood and lymph, keeping these fluids from getting stagnant. Stagnant fluids in the body breed disease. Exercise moves stagnant fluid and returns it back into the major channels of the body where it can be processed appropriately.
Seeds of Wisdom
As a neurologist, I initially struggled to understand the impact of the heart on the mind as it was taught in Ayurveda. It was easy for me to see how the mind and chronic stress impacted the heart, as well as how a healthy heart provided adequate blood supply to the brain. But to really grasp the concept of the importance of the heart in developing a mature and tempered mind was challenging for me.
Through meditation and devotion-based spiritual practice, over time I witnessed firsthand how the development of my heart chakra led to a stronger and clearer mind. In fact, as my heart chakra matured and blossomed, a new type of intellect emerged from that, and brought with it intuition and wisdom far beyond what I had previously understood as my mind’s intellectual capacity.
Because the heart is the key to unlocking this superconscious state of the mind, heart health is a primary goal for reaching full human potential in Ayurveda.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, a healthy heart is not only one that receives adequate physical exercise and a nutritious, dosha-specific diet; it also is one in which we exercise our emotional muscles to build qualities such as compassion, altruism and unconditional love as well as feeding it with ideas ripe with the eternal wisdom of life.