5 Steps to Ayurvedic Self-Care for Your Whole Heart
Are you taking care of your heart, emotionally and physically? According to Ayurvedic wisdom, your tireless ticker needs more than just a heart-healthy diet to stay shipshape.
“The human heart is actually two hearts: the physical heart muscle, which pumps our blood, and the emotional heart, which experiences love, joy, sadness, and every other human feeling,” writes Ayurvedic expert Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., in her book The Ageless Woman. “Both of these hearts must be supported for health—the physical heart through diet, and the emotional heart through stress reduction and enhancement of ojas, the bliss factor that keeps you immune to disease.”
Ojas is the finest substance produced by your body; it is responsible for connecting the physical body to consciousness. The seat of ojas—its location—is in the heart. With that in mind, here are some Ayurvedic self-care suggestions to nurture both facets of the heart—the seat of ojas, where physical vigor and pure consciousness meet in your body.
1. Dial in Your Dinacharya
In the age of iPhones and social media, it’s easy to lose touch with your circadian rhythms, or internal clock. Following a healthy dinacharya (daily routine) helps you realign your mind and body with nature’s rhythms. Get back to the Ayurvedic basics, including: waking up early, preferably with the sunrise; scraping your tongue; doing self-massage with warm oil; eating your largest meal of the day during Pitta time (between 12 noon and 1 p.m. is ideal—there’s a reason you’re ravenous at noon!); making time for exercise and downtime each day; and hitting the hay by 10 p.m. Here’s a helpful, more elaborate post on dinacharya.
2. Listen to Your Heart (Really)
The experiences you have throughout the day affect your brain chemistry, which in turn affects your heart, writes Dr. Lonsdorf: “Psychoneuroimmunology research has shown that positive, uplifting thoughts and feelings can be good for your cardiovascular system by reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, thus lowering blood pressure, and increasing serotonin, the ‘well-being’ brain chemical. On the other hand, ‘heart-hurtful’ conversations can raise cortisol and trigger the fight-or-flight response,” which can negatively affect heart health. Any day is bound to contain both positive and negative experiences, but it’s good to address anything that’s causing chronic stress—whether a relationship, an unfulfilling career, lingering debt, unresolved conflicts, setting boundaries, saying “yes” when you mean “no,” and so on.
3. Warm Up Your Diet
Eating heavy, cold, and extremely oily foods in excess and performing excessive mental work can impact the vessels that nourish the heart, according to the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text. Modern research affirms that deep-fried foods like French fries are hard on your heart. To nourish that hard-working organ, try to favor warm, cooked, lightly spiced foods like hearty stews with veggies and legumes instead of cold foods like salads, or dry, greasy foods like potato chips. Choose heart-healthy fats like olive oil rather than going fat-free. Help your digestion do its job by simply pausing to eat—rather than forking mouthfuls in over a computer while you work. Our Garlic and Cardio Support supplements also help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure (already within a normal range) while supporting circulatory health.
4. Address Sadhaka Agni
You’ve heard of agni, your digestive fire, but did you know you have an agni that “digests” emotions? It’s called Sadhaka Agni, and it’s associated with Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs the heart and emotions. Just as people with strong digestive agni metabolize meals quickly, people with high Sadhaka Agni process emotional events quickly. If your Sadhaka Agni is low, you might have a hard time moving beyond emotional upsets. The solution? Restoring balance through your dinacharya and Ayurvedic diet. For an added boost, consider traditional Ayurvedic formulas like Stress Free Emotions, which offers natural resistance to emotional stress and fatigue, and also promotes emotional balance and positive feelings. Organic Ashwagandha is another excellent heart tonic; it helps to reduce stress hormones, boosts immunity, and promotes good sleep. It’s also important to do things that uplift you—whether that’s practicing yoga, helping a friend, or meditating. Studies show Transcendental Meditation®, for instance, helps dissolve stresses, and promotes emotional wellbeing.
Our Cardio Support herbal supplement also nourishes both the physical heart and the emotional heart. It’s a good choice for anyone interested in long-term cardiovascular health and for those going through emotional times.
5. Get Enough Sleep—and Exercise
A 2017 Harvard study found that those with irregular or insufficient sleep have increased rates of cardiovascular issues. Good sleep is one of the pillars of Ayurveda, as it’s the time when your body repairs and heals, and your mind and emotions regain balance. New research shows that your brain actually repairs and restructures itself during sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep, you can soothe a Vata imbalance by drinking Slumber Time Tea, massaging Youthful Skin Massage Oil onto your hands and feet, and/or taking Blissful Sleep or Worry Free tablets an hour before bed. If you fall asleep fine and wake up in the wee hours, quell that Pitta by taking Deep Rest or Stress Free Emotions tablets at night. If you sleep long and well, but wake up feeling lethargic, start your day with Organic Stimulating Kapha Tea. (Read more in-depth dosha-specific sleep recommendations here.) Getting enough exercise during the day lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, elevates your mood, and helps with sleep, which further helps with the heart.
In the span of your lifetime, your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times and steer you through waves of love, loss, change, and everything in between. Tending to this superhero organ matters, both emotionally and physically. Fortunately, with a few diet and lifestyle changes here and there, you can go a long way toward safeguarding your heart.
Sometimes the most nurturing thing you can do for your heart is simply to pause, take a deep breath, and listen to its quiet, steady guidance.
To protect the heart and great vessels, above all take measures that are healthy for the heart and promote ojas, that cleanse the gaps and channels, and help create serenity of mind. —Charaka Samhita
For more information on this topic, read our post on Ayurveda for a Healthy Heart.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.