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Massage Today
September, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 09

Achieving Heart-Centered Healing

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

As massage therapists, we have dedicated our lives to positively effecting people through touch. Some clients come to us for relief from medical conditions, others are athletes recovering from muscle fatigue and the majority are regular folks trying manage stressful lives.

We understand the power of "heart-centered" healing, and believe that practicing it in our work results in a better healing for our clients. I, personally, feel honored that people entrust us to help them "feel better" for one hour of their day. But, did you know that science has now proven that what we think and feel in our hearts has an actual impact on ourselves, and those around us? We do not even have to be physically touching another person in order for the electromagnetic field of our heart to impact another person's body. I came across some fascinating research that made me approach the work we do in a whole new light.

The Institute of HeartMath - founded in 1991 - is an educational and research based nonprofit dedicated to helping people become less stressed in order to lead more fulfilling and productive lives. Much of their research is focused on the heart, specifically, how it communicates with the brain and the body. The research behind the evolution of HeartMath came from the idea that the body's emotional response to events do not always occur from "top-down" processing (i.e., the brain sends signals to the heart and other organs, and the body responds accordingly). Rather, it has now proven that often times our emotional state triggers our heart to send out its own signals to the brain and other organs, and the body then responds accordingly. For instance, while two-way communication between the cognitive and emotional systems is hard-wired into the brain, the actual number of neural connections going from the emotional centers to the cognitive centers is greater than the number going the other way. Have you ever: Made a "rash" decision? Done something dangerous on impulse? Taken a risk because you believed in it? This research helps explain the influence emotions have on our ability to think and act.

Heart-Centered Healing - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In fact, researchers at HeartMath have determined that the physiology and nerve centers of the heart are so complex and active, that they constitute a "brain" all on their own, termed a "mini-brain." We now know that the heart contains cells that produce and release norepinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters once thought to be produced only by the brain and ganglia outside the heart. Even more remarkable is the discovery that the heart produces oxytocin -the "love hormone" - in concentrations that are as high as those in the brain.

In addition, it has been determined that the heart is the most powerful generator of electromagnetic energy in the human body, producing the largest rhythmic electromagnetic field of any of the body's organs. The heart's electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. This field, measured in the form of an electrocardiogram (ECG), can be detected anywhere on the surface of the body. Furthermore, the magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 5,000 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain, and can be detected a number of feet away from the body, in all directions, using SQUID-based magnetometers. Our results provide intriguing evidence that an exchange of electromagnetic energy produced by the heart occurs when people touch or are in proximity. While this signal is strongest when people are in contact, it is still detectable when subjects are in proximity without contact.

So, you may ask yourself, why is all of this important? It means that when we lay hands on people, we have a much more profound effect on their state of health then we originally thought. If we are distracted, scattered, angry, anxious or sad, we are unknowingly transmitting those feelings to our patients when they are on the table. It also means that no matter how hard we try, we cannot perform at our best when our body is not in a relaxed, happy or positive state. One of the main functions of HeartMath is to teach people how to focus their mind and detach from stress, so their heart patterns become more "coherent" with the rest of the body. Learning how to do this allows us to function at our optimal level, and emit energy that has a positive impact on those within close proximity to us.

Most of us have a form of pre-client "routine" we perform to help us prepare for a massage, that may include deep breathing, inhaling certain scents, stretching, praying, etc. Clearly, those who came before us in the field were on to something when they taught us this technique. In order for your work to be successful, I believe it is crucial to get into a positive, clear frame of mind before working on clients. If you do not have a daily method by which you relax your thoughts, I encourage you to look into this, and find something that works for you. There are a multitude of print and online resources for meditation, relaxation and mood changing techniques that offer many quick and practical ways to center your heart and mind. It seems like the more we learn, the more evidence there is to prove a mind-body connection. As someone who started in this business in the 1980's, when that concept was rarely talked about in the U.S., it is validating to see how far we have come in accepting it. Even more exciting is to consider what we will know about the mind-body connection as research continues on this subject in the years ahead!

Click here for more information about Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT.


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