What does it mean to have a healthy Heart – and how can it improve your relationship? TCM physicians explain the importance of nurturing healthy Heart Qi.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the heart is considered the emperor of all the organs. It’s the king of the kingdom, providing the force that coordinates all activity – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – in the body.
While the heart is obviously closely tied to our cardiovascular health, it is also responsible for a very important aspect of our mental health and well-being – the heart is also the home of the Shen (spirit).
Housing the Spirit
The Shen, in TCM, is considered one of the “three treasures” which are essential energies for sustaining human life – the other two being Jing (essence) and Qi (vitality). The Shen includes all aspects of consciousness and our deeper wisdom, including intelligence and emotions, as well as memory and sleep.
If the Heart does not have enough energy or blood, it cannot properly house your Shen. When this is the case, you may experience an uneasy or restless feeling. TCM also views issues such as mental problems and sleep irregularities like insomnia and nightmares as potentially arising from an unbalanced Heart.
Dr Mark Chern, a TCM doctor who treats pain as well as psycho emotional conditions at Soma Clinic, tells us what to look out for: “Certain signs and symptoms can reveal that your Heart Qi is not rooted and is dispersed. For example, insomnia, vivid dreams, irritability, shortness of breath, palpitations, inability to concentrate are all signs that a person’s Heart Qi is not stably centered.”
“One of the biggest benefits of healthy Heart Qi is the feeling of safety within your Self,” explains Mark, “and this translates into security in your relationships with others, including your romantic relationships.”
(Also read: Everything You Need to Know About Healing Crystals)
Maintaining A Healthy Heart
Dr Clement Ng is a registered TCM practitioner and Vice President of the Singapore Acupuncture Association, and he explains it this way: “The Heart receives external information, and governs our spiritual and conscious responses. If your Heart Qi is healthy, you will be alert, quick-spirited and in harmony with nature and the world. On the other hand, dysfunctional Heart Qi can lead to confusion, fickle-mindedness and feeling out of sync with your natural environment.”
What’s the best way to care for your Heart? In the West, the way to strengthen this organ is through exercise, preferably the sweaty, cardiovascular kind. But in the East, the path to a strong, balanced Heart is to foster a peaceful, open Heart. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but especially by being present in the body, being mindful of your Shen, and through the sustenance of healthy and meaningful relationships.
(Also read: Fun Ways to Improve Your Heart Health)
Tips for nourishing your Heart Qi:
Be content in the Now
Dr Mark Chern says: “Avoid dwelling in the past or being anxious about the future. Nostalgia, worry or anxiety over-extend our Heart and dissipate the focused presence of the Shen.”
We suggest: Leave your mobile devices at home! Enjoying the moment with each other, even for a short while everyday, can remind you how much there is to appreciate.
Feel the sun on your back
“A walk in the woods can cultivate your heart and mind,” says Dr Clement Ng. “In my class, I always encourage my students to go for walks in the park, to harness negative ions in the natural environment, as well as to have some sun on your back. The Yang energy of the sun helps energise the body’s meridians and goes a long way towards helping maintain a healthy Heart.”
We suggest: Go for a walk by the beach or in a park near your home, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Taking in fresh air and soaking in sunshine can have a dramatic effect on your overall mood.
Find balance between giving and receiving
“When we give too much of ourselves, the Heart Qi can become dispersed or weak. But if we don’t express enough energy from the Heart or allow energy in, the Heart Qi can become stagnant,” says Dr Mark Chern.
We suggest: Why not take turns to plan a fun date night out every now and then to surprise each other? Often in long-term relationships, it’s too easy to go on auto-pilot mode to get through the busy week, and resentment can build from feeling run down and overlooked. Take some time out to enjoy treating yourself and your loved one to some fun time together.
Encourage a gentle flow of energy
“Depending on what kind of exercise your body can manage, movement with strength training is good for your Heart Qi,” says Dr Mark Chern. “A combination of strengthening and calming exercises, like yoga, is ideal, especially when done within a community. Other group or team sports like cycling or playing football lends a vital social aspect which is great for achieving a balanced flow and fostering Heart Qi.”
We suggest: Some low-key tag team physical activity as a couple is a great way to feel relaxed and aligned. Canoeing is a great way to work in tandem, and you might be surprised at the mini workout you get. Or if you’re into something with a bit more adrenaline, why not try a dance class or couple yoga – anything that requires some level of joint coordination.
(Also read: 5 Ways to Boost Your Energy Levels in the New Year)
Dr Clement Ng is a Singapore registered TCM practitioner, Vice President of the Singapore Acupuncture Association and the Principal Consultant of online TCM learning resource TCM and You. Find out more about his clinical services and training courses at www.tcmandyou.com.
Dr Mark Chern is the founder of Soma Clinic, an integrated health clinic which recognises the psycho-emotional component to complex health. Soma Clinic is located at 545 Orchard Road, Far East Shopping Centre #16- 07 and 144 Robinson Road, Robinson Square #08-02.