Focusing on heart health and breathing can be a game changer

By Manor Park Chronicle

Person seated and stretching on yoga mat over one extended leg while other leg is bent.
Breathing slowly and deeply through the nose can produce a relaxation response, similar to yoga or tai chi. Photo: Pixabay

By Louise Lettström Hannant

I want to tell you about a scientific revelation that has been profound for me.

The stress we have experienced over the past year and half is beyond compare.

Manor Parkers stepped up to the challenges offering support to each other and the community. Unlike many other neighborhoods, we gained access to mental resilience, yoga, and fitness classes through Zoom or outdoors meetings. Equipment was made available to borrow or lend. The Manor Park listserve and the Buy Nothing Rockcliffe / Manor Park / New Edinburgh lists brought people together virtually. They also provided safe give-always during the long quarantine. Walking around in the community, people opened their hearts and shared warm smiles and greetings. Generosity prevailed throughout the lockdowns.

When COVID-19 hit, my work as a fitness instructor and health consultant was put on hold for a couple of months. I saw an opportunity to dive deeper into the body’s capacity to build resilience; our ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Resilience does not make us immune to the experiences of stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. It does empower us to tap into the strengths and support systems in our own bodies that help us to overcome challenges and move forward.

 To live we need to breathe. James Nestor, author of the best seller Breath, writes that breathing slowly and deeply through the nose produces a relaxation response. As the diaphragm lowers, it allows more air into your lungs and your body goes in to a more relaxed state. This kind of breathwork has roots in practises such as yoga  tai chi, and the breath meditation of Buddhism.

We have a choice. We can either reinforce stress and fear or, we can tap into emotions like joy, compassion, or gratitude. They can benefit the entire body. These positive emotions also profoundly affect how we perceive, think, feel, and contribute to a happier, healthier, and more compassionate world.

Meditation and mindfulness practice together with breathwork can be a game changer by targeting stress, burnout, hormonal imbalances, sleep and digestive dysfunction.

The connection between heart and brain is called heart-brain coherence.

Understanding this connection has been a most important and profound insight in my professional and personal life. 

If this article intrigues you, I suggest you consider delving into meditation or establishing a mindfulness practice. The community centers in the area are offering yoga, fitness classes with mindfulness introduction.

You can read and find out more at the Heartmath Institute,, and James Nestor

Louise Lettström Hannant is a certified personal trainer and fitness specialist.