Hello Dear Ones:
How to Flip the Vagus Nerve Switch
You might be surprised to know that your Vagus Nerve works in tandem with your heart and your breath. Can you feel your heart beating when you narrowly escape a car accident? Certainly, if you’ve ever had a panic attack, you can feel your heart pounding as though it will crash through your chest. This sort of habitual, shallow breathing can suggest sympathetic arousal – this is your fight, flight, or freeze response.)
Let’s see what this feels like: Hunch forward, clench your fists, press your feet into the floor, and tighten every part of your body. Close your eyes and visualize a wild dog coming right at you. Release all of that and touch your middle finger to your thumb creating a circle and feel your heartbeat pulsing as your thumb and your middle finger touch. Now, hopefully, your nervous system reboots and you feel like yourself again. Problems arise when you cannot return to a sense of calm, where blood flows into your belly and you feel safe and sound.
Your Breath and Your Heart – This is It!
One of the most miraculous things about our bodies – in my opinion – is our breath. On any given day your breath just happens and you can’t stop it. It is automatic.
The fascinating thing, however, is that you can learn to control and manipulate your breath.
And, here’s the most important nugget I have to offer: what’s even more amazing is that by learning to control your breath you learn to speed up or slow down your heart.
When you speed up or slow down your heart, you learn to tone your Vagus nerve. When your Vagus nerve responds to trauma, its switch is stuck on “on.” We don’t want that. We want a lovely, flexible Vagus nerve that can speed up the heart when we sense danger and then shake it off and allow us to take a nap when we feel relaxed. One way to do that is by learning to use your breath. You see, your breath informs your heart and your heart informs your Vagus nerve.
You Want A Full and Free Breath: Three Techniques
Let’s play around with our breath. You can read my words or watch the video below.
Put your hands on your belly and let it relax. As women, we’ve unfortunately been taught to suck in our bellies to achieve a certain culturally desired look. But doing that wreaks havoc with our viscera and our Vagus nerve. It creates a holding pattern that our nervous system reads as stress. Think about that when you zip yourself into those super-tight jeans!
- Focus on the Exhale
Inhale and feel your belly expand into your hands. Then exhale and feel your belly deflate. Do this three times. Notice – does your inhale seem to stay up near your shoulders? Is one – the inhale or the exhale – more challenging? What are you experiencing?
But now – and this is the crucial part – to help your Vagus nerve transition back to “rest and digest” you want to focus on the exhale, making it long and slow.
Take note of the length of your inhale by counting and then, with ease, double the length of your exhale.
Most simply, your inhale speeds up your heart rate and your exhale slows your heart rate down. Most of us need, desperately, to modulate our breath in a way that helps us recover from stress.
- Add a “Voo” Sound
Here is another fun way to use your breath to tone the Vagus nerve which I learned from trauma therapist, Peter A. Levine (see references below). This sound, a long, exhaled “voooo” comes from Tibetan chants. When you exhale, while chanting the “voooo” sound, direct your breath into your belly. In doing so, you create resonant tones in your lower belly: you open up your chest and your heart; and, you stimulate the serpentine branches of the Vagus nerve.
- Hug, Hum, and Rock with Breath and the “Voo” Sound
This lovely practice could be said to embody holding yourself fiercely and speaking to yourself with love. There are two ways to do it: with yourself, or with another human being or with your dear pet. Simply hold your arms around you in a hug. You can stand, sit, or lie down. Rock back and forth and as you exhale and chant the “voooo” sound long and slow. You can also do this with another person or your dear pet. I learned this technique from Devi Stern, an Eden Energy practitioner, at www.dragonflyhealer.com.
The video for all these techniques is below! You can watch it if you like.
Also, here are the references I mentioned in the blog:
Levine, Peter A. Ph.D. In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2010.
Van der Kolk, Bessel, M.D. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Penguin Books, 2014.
Love and Gratitude,
Here is the Video
I faced a dilemma here, dear readers. The wonderful techniques that I offer do not show up until the end of the blog — they are part of Part III. However, I did not want to keep you waiting. So I will post the video at the bottom of each of the blogs in this series. Enjoy and let me know what you experience!
Also, you might want to follow up by purchasing my online masterclass called, “Unshackle Your Stress and Reclaim Your Life”
Here’s the link:
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