Heart Hug = Vagal Tone, Breathing, and Oxytocin

I just recently I had the pleasure to speak to people about using the “Heart Hug” to increase the beautiful hormone and neurotransmitter, Oxytocin. This healthy chemical that runs through us helps us with excellent health, healing and happiness. It is involved in our ease of connecting to other people and animals and to more easily understand each other.

There is a saying about empathy and compassion, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”        May I be so simple as to suggest this little piece where we look into each other’s eyes and give ourselves a few heart hugs, breathing in through our nose and out gently though our mouth, by possibly make it easier to route our compassion. It is possible by doing something so simple as an exercise in joyful simplicity that we can make our lives a little easier each and every day.

What a wonderful way to start each morning and ending every day. Frankly, I find myself giving brief heart hugs thought the day.

Try it, you might like it!

warmly, Elinor Silverstein



  1. oh Elinor! At about the 20 minute mark I thought “I love Elinor” now was that the oxytocin talking?!? In any case, I thought I’d share! What a lovely lesson. Thank you.

  2. Hi Elinor, just listened to your interview with Dr. McCarty and also this talk on heart hugs. really interesting, thanks for that! I’m curious about the approach you take with breathing. If the goal is to enhance vagal tone why is the breathing ‘exaggerated’ ? Why breaths exhaled out through pursed lips? I can hear your forced exhales in the talk on this page. Generally speaking parasympathetic corresponds with soft gentle breathing; sympathetic with rapid deeper breaths. So if the goal is to enhance vagal tone….
    At one point you mention back pressure and slowing the exhalation by pursed lips. The nose naturally provides back pressure and relaxation softens the exhale. If you force air through pursed lips you are engaging abdominal muscles to push the diaphragm. This seems contrary to your goal.
    Aerating the paranasal sinuses, which produces nitric oxide, happens on exhale, not just inhale. Also softer inhales and exhales through the nose cause more turbulence in the nasal cavity; more paranasal aeration.
    I teach a healing modality called the Buteyko breathing method. I used it to overcome fairly serious asthma and allergies. We teach breathing with the nose, on both inhale and exhale, to take advantage of all the aspects of respiratory anatomy ‘design’ and to enhance vagal tone. Many people with dysfunctional breathing (which includes everyone with a chronic health condition) are out of sympathetic/parasympathetic balance… and many of them ‘push’ their exhales (especially asthma, snoring, sleep apnea, high blood pressure). Pursed lip breathing is used in the event of serious asthma attack, panic attack or severe emphysema respiratory distress, with the idea of moving to nose breathing when it becomes possible. I don’t understand it’s use in the context that you present here. I hope you get a moment to reply, best, Steve.

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