January 20th 2021
Self-care for the heart: 7 Chinese rituals guaranteed to bring joy
February 12th 2021 / 0 comment
Feeling tired, anxious or foggy? It could be that your heart energy needs a boost. Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner Katie Brindle has these easy fixes to make your heart sing
No matter what the current status of your own heart is, you’ve only got one and it needs looking after. If you’re feeling tired or joyless, or short of breath and dizzy, it could be a sign your heart needs a little more TLC. This is where ancient Chinese wisdom comes in.
The Chinese approach to health and wellbeing is that mind and body should be treated as a whole. In the West, we’ve tended to treat them separately, but now there is a growing movement among scientists called psychoneuroimmunology, that our brain, nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are all linked. In other words, the mind, emotions, and body are entwined.
In Chinese medicine, we recognise that each of our emotions is connected to a specific organ: the heart, kidneys, spleen, lungs or liver. In the case of the heart, the major emotion is joy. When heart energy (or qi) is depleted or imbalanced, you might feel anything but joyful.
What are the signs of low heart energy?
Emotional signs that you have an imbalance in your heart energy include a lack of joy, feeling anxious or being easily startled.
Feeling tired between 11am and 1pm or 7pm and 11pm? In Chinese medicine, that’s a classic sign of low heart qi.
Other physical signs include palpitations, shortness of breath on exertion, a pale face, sweating, tiredness, insomnia, poor memory, dizziness, chest pain, tongue pain or burning urine can all be indicators that your heart energy or qi is imbalanced.
If that’s you right now, then there are plenty of things you can do to nourish your heart qi.
What is heart qi and why is it important?
Qi (pronounced ‘chi’) is the energy that runs through all of us. Even when you sit completely still, there will be some movement happening inside you. Your heart beating, fluids moving, every cell is constantly in motion. All these different types of energy combined with your breath is what makes up your qi. Qi isn’t the same as the circulation, but it is linked. When you stimulate your blood flow or move your lymphatic fluid, your qi is also stimulated. Everything flows together.
The channels in which qi flows are called meridians. According to Chinese medicine, the quality and movement of qi through the body determines your health. The ideal state is one of smooth flow with no imbalances or blockages (stagnant qi). If you have stagnation, whether that’s physical, emotional or spiritual, this will eventually manifest as disease.
When it comes to self-care, the Chinese have always been way ahead. Yang Sheng, or Chinese self-care has been in existence for thousands of years and has many practices from bathing to breathing, qigong and gua sha to keep our bodies in balance, as a preventative measure against disease. I know from my own daily practice and the people that I treat, how powerful these small daily rituals can be. What’s more, they are as easy to fit into your life as brushing your teeth.
If your heart energy is feeling low, try these:
7 easy ways to support help your heart energy to find more joy
1. Rest during the ‘heart energy’ times of the day
If there are emotional or energetic issues with the heart, tiredness may well hit between 11am to 1pm. During these hours, it is best to relax if you are able, take a siesta and enjoy lunch. Try to avoid stress, intense exercise, caffeine, or anything else that raises your blood pressure; 7pm to 11pm is also a key time to protect your heart energies, so use this time to relax if you can. Ideally, avoid eating after 9pm.
2. Gua sha your elbow!
The heart meridian passes through the elbow, so gua sha or pat the inside of your elbow every day to help keep your heart healthy. You can use a metal Hayou Body Restorer Massage Tool, £34 or even a metal tablespoon or jam jar lid. Press stroke a few times until you see redness appearing (don’t worry, that’s a good think and a sign that you are releasing stagnation)
3. Sing haaaaa!
Practice singing this healing sound for your heart. Each of the five key organs, which in Chinese self-care are the root of good health (spleen, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys) have a healing sound attached and making this sound is said to sound can strengthen the corresponding organ. Practice singing 'haaaaa' and see what difference it makes to your joy levels.
4. Practise rose quartz gua sha
Rose quartz is one of the best crystals for healing the heart. If you do facial gua sha, use a rose quartz gua sha tool on the chests to tonify the heart. Make six press strokes from the centre of the chest out towards the armpit and shoulders on each side. Again this will bring up the red ‘sha’ which is a sign of excess heat releasing, bringing your body back into a state of balance. Hayo'u Beauty Restorer Rose Quartz tool, £34.
Rose quartz engages with heart energy. The best time to use gua sha with rose quartz is from early morning to 1pm, according to Chinese self-care.
5. Eat bitter foods (yes to dark chocolate)
I’m often asked about diet. And while I’d advocate that the yang sheng techniques such as tapping and gua sha that I teach have more of an effect on your qi than food, diet has always been a fundamental part of the Chinese approach. The heart responds well to bitter foods, as they slightly cool the body. Try to include more of the following into your diet: parsley, mustard greens, kale, dandelion greens, collard greens, burdock root, coffee, buckwheat, capers, cauliflower, celeriac, chocolate, citrus peel, endive, ginseng, grapefruit, green tea, lettuce, lemon balm, spring onions, turmeric, watercress, white pepper.
6. Eat red vegetables and fruits
Plenty of red vegetables and fruits (in Chinese Five Elements theory, red foods nourish the heart, as they correspond to the Chinese 'fire element', which is linked to the heart. Warming drinks, such as black tea are beneficial to the heart too.
7. Take up Chinese yoga - qigong
I’ve saved the best for last. Chinese medicine is all about treating the body as a whole. Remember, the philosophy is that any disease starts with a disruption of energy flow. The good news is, you can treat those subtle energetic imbalances before they progress and cause obvious physical symptoms. As strange as this may sound, I have seen time and again with my clients that it really works.
Practising qigong, a slow-moving martial art, is very effective for stimulating the free flow of energy and blood throughout the body while breaking up any stagnation that might be present. It helps maintain the strength and flexibility of all the joints including the spine. In addition, a classic sequence such as 12 Rivers helps to strengthen all the internal organs and balance the body. If you’d like to give it a try, I’d love to see you at my free morning qigong class on Instagram @Hayoufit.