There are twin parts of your autonomic nervous system that control how you feel and function in daily life. The first twin is the Rest and Digest part controlled by the Vagus nerve, when this twin is dominant & Vagal tone is high, you feel calm, relaxed, happy and creative, inflammation is low, you sleep well and life is good!
The second twin is the Fight and Flight part which if dominant long term while Vagal tone is low, increasingly creates the experience of anxiety, depression, anger and reactivity, sleep may be poor and life feels like an effort. You often feel tired, cranky and unmotivated, in short, life’s no fun.
So you can see that if you want to have a happy life, the tone of your Vagus nerve is vitally important, and if there were a way to improve Vagal tone and access its benefits you might be very interested in knowing about that & using it. The Vagus nerve is very VERY long, beginning at the base of your brain, & running down through all the organs in your chest and abdomen.
The interesting thing about this nerve is that it has fibers carrying information in both directions, up to the brain and down to the organs - and 90% of those fibers are taking data up!
How can we Increase Vagal tone?
Because the Vagus nerve runs so extensively through the larynx, lungs, diaphragm & abdomen there are a number of simple effective ways to increase Vagal tone by actively using these areas daily including:
- The Breath of Life
What is The Breath of Life?
Now you may not be much of a singer or hummer, but everyone can breathe.
The Breath of Life is a particular way of breathing - have you ever seen a baby sleeping? Their little tummy rises and falls slowly and naturally with the breath. We are going to use that kind of slow relaxed breathing to increase our Vagal tone.
This is how you can do it:
- Set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes, or more if you have the time
- Sit comfortably with your back straight, you can lie down if you wish
- Close your eyes, or look at something neutral like the wall (not your computer screen)
- Clear your mind of thoughts and be totally present in this moment
- Place your awareness on your abdomen below the navel
- Inhale slowly to a count of 4 (don’t think, just focus on the breath and the slow count)
- Exhale slowly to a count of 6 – 8 (as you exhale let go & relax more deeply)
- As you become familiar with the basic practice, you can try adding a word like ‘peace’ or ‘love’ as the first count of your exhalation, feeling peace or love surrounding you.
Ideally practice the Breath of Life for 10 minutes 3 times a day to increase Vagal tone, & notice the changes that occur in how you feel and the quality of your life & relationships with those around you. Those changes should be noticeable right from the first day, but will become more obvious after about 2 weeks of regular practice. Everyone can fit 10 minutes into their day somewhere, so be consistent and give it a go to see how much better you can feel.
For assistance call Karen Emans at Sunshine Coast Kinesiology on 0408748532.