Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Vagus Nerve Part 6

 The Vagus Nerve Part 6: by Wendy Hayden

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is a form of energy psychology that uses a combination of tapping on acupressure points, affirmations, and visualization to help release trapped emotions and energy, allowing you to heal and find relief from physical and emotional issues. By tapping on specific points on the body, individuals can help to reduce their symptoms and experience improved wellbeing. One way to use EFT or the vagus nerve is to tap on the nerve itself. There are several points on the body that correspond to the vagus nerve. Tapping works similarly to acupuncture, but without needles. You tap on energy pathways and meridians to get energy moving in the body. Stuck pain and emotions move, sending a message to the amygdala that everything is ok and calm. The signals tell your body that you are safe. Along with the physical act of tapping, you follow a verbal script to work on a specific emotion that you want to release. EFT is a combination of ancient Chinese medicine, tapping on the meridians of the body, along with modern psychology, the statements while tapping. EFT uses a standard sequence of tapping on certain acupressure points near the surface of the skin. Many of these acupressure points coincide with the vagus nerve. The first step is to identify what to work on. Can you think of some stress? Where do you feel it in your body? What is the emotion that you want to release? The more specific you are with identifying the emotion, the more effective the tapping will be. This is an enormous step and can be difficult for some people as we often have a hard time admitting to struggling with pain or emotions. We might believe that it shows weakness to acknowledge something we are struggling with, but this is the first step in healing and releasing that issue. Identify on a scale of 1-10 how strongly you felt that emotion. Don't worry about tapping the perfect spots and EFT is very flexible.Start tapping on the fleshy side of your hand by your pinky, while tapping repeat your setup statement: “even though I have this emotion or pain (state your specific issue), I deeply and completely accept myself”. Repeat this statement three times. Now you go through the acupressure points on your body and tap while repeating the “reminder phrase”. Your reminder phrase is the emotion or pain you want to release. Tap the top of your head, the edges of your eyebrows near your nose, the bones on the outside of your eye, the bone below your eye, the indentation below your nose, the indentation between your mouth and your chin and tap these points while repeating your reminder phrase. Find your collarbone and go down an inch and then out an inch. Tap this spot. Lift your arm and tap on your side about three inches below your armpit (about where your bra band is) and repeat your reminder phrase. Take a deep breath, breathing out longer than you breathe in. You can set up a practice to tap once a day, or multiple times a day. Some find it helpful to tap in the morning to start their day relaxed and calm and some use it at night to wind down from the day's events. If you feel tension in your body, take a few minutes to tap. If the body tension jumps up, then there is more to explore. The increase in tension is a message from your body, telling you that you have more to explore and work on. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Vagus Nerve Part 5

The Vagus Nerve Part 5: by Wendy Hayden

How to sit for a mindfulness meditation: 

  1. Take your place, you want a good stable and solid seat

  2. See what your legs are doing. Make sure they are comfortable in whatever place you sit

  3. Straighten but don't harden your upper body

  4. Settle your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then let your hands fall onto the tops of your legs.

  5. Lower your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently down, feel free to close your eyes

  6. Don't force anything, be there for a few minutes. Relax. Take your attention to your breath or the feelings in your body

  7. Feel your breath as it goes in and out. Pay attention to what your body is doing with each inhale and exhale

  8. Unavoidably your attention will leave your breath and shift to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or reject thinking. When you get around to noticing your mind wandering…return your attention back to your breath

  9. Practice pausing before initiating any physical adjustments. With purpose shift at a moment you want allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do

  10. Practice observing without the need to react if you find your mind wandering. Just sit and pay attention

  11. When you're ready, lightly lift your gaze and open your eyes. Take a while and feel the sound in the environment. Notice how your body feels, see your thoughts and emotions. Decide how you’d like to continue with your day

Here is a guided meditation script for your vagus nerve:

  1. Start by finding a comfortable position

  2. Bring your attention to the area at the base of your neck, right between your collarbones. This is the area where the vagus nerve starts its journey through the body

  3. Take a few moments to imagine the energy of the vagus nerve flowing through this area. As you imagine the energy flowing, take a deep breath and allow your body to relax

  4. Now imagine a soft white lights radiating from the base of your neck and traveling down the length of the vagus nerve

  5. As the light continues to travel, imagine it connecting to each of the organs and systems connected to the vagus nerve, bringing balance and calm to the body. Continue to focus on the soft white light traveling down the length of the vagus nerve and connecting to all the organs and systems. As you do, take a few moments to become aware of any sensations or changes in the body

  6. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Focus your attention on your breath and let go of any thoughts or worries that may be on your mind

  7. Feel your body relax as you exhale and let your shoulders and neck muscles soften 

  8. Now focus your breath

  9. As you inhale concentrate on drawing the breath deep into your body as if you’re filling your chest and belly with air 

  10. As you exhale imagine that your breath is flowing outward and releasing any tension or stress

  11. Now, close your eyes and focus on the space between your eyebrows. Feel the area between your eyebrows relax and soften. Take a few more deep breaths and imagine a soft light radiating from the area between your eyebrows. Allow this light to flow down your face and neck and then relax your chest and abdomen. Continue to breathe deeply and focus on the area between your eyebrows

  12. Bring awareness to your throat as you focus on your breath. As you inhale, imagine the air entering your throat and circulating throughout your neck. As you exhale, feel the air exiting your throat and releasing any tension or tightness

  13. After a few breaths, bring your attention to your body. Notice any sensations in your body and any areas of tension. After a few moments of awareness, relax any areas of tension by consciously encouraging your body to let go

  14. Visualize a wave of relaxation flowing through your body and feel your body progressively relax

  15. Now imagine a string connecting your throat to the base of your spine. Visualize the string emitting a gentle vibration that travels down the string and into your body and mind

  16. Now, with each breath silently recite the following mantra “my vagus nerve is functioning optimally. I am relaxed, peaceful, and content”

  17. Repeat this mantra on each breath and continue to do so for the next few minutes

  18. As you repeat the mantra, focus on your breath and the sensation of your throat and neck muscles releasing tension

  19. Notice how you feel, emotionally and physically

  20. Stay in this state of relaxation for as long as you like, allowing your body and mind to sink deeper into relaxation with each passing moment

  21. When you're ready, slowly open your eyes and take a few more deep breaths.notice how you feel and how your body has responded to the relaxation


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Vagus Nerve Part 4

 The Vagus Nerve Part 4: by Wendy Hayden

Music is very stimulating to the vagus nerve and can help switch us into a parasympathetic state. Chanting can help to stimulate the vagus nerve and bring balance to the body. During chanting, the vocal muscles contract and relax in a rhythmic pattern, which helps to promote relaxation and a sense of peace. The practice of chanting is a great way to relax and stimulate the vagus nerve because it is done in a deeply meditative state, with focused attention on the words and sounds being uttered. Chanting can help you reach a state of heightened awareness, allowing you to become more connected to your inner self. To begin your chanting session, take a few moments to settle into a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Take a few moments to allow your body to relax and your mind to clear. As you inhale, feel your lungs expanding, and as you exhale, feel your entire body relaxing. Chant any words, sounds, or phrases that resonate with you. Feel free to make up your own words or use traditional chants. For example, you could chant “Om” or “Ahh” in a low, deep voice. Continue to chant OM, or your preferred sound, for several minutes, allowing the sound to penetrate your entire being. As you chant, feel the sound activating the vagus nerve and allowing it to release any tension. Feel the effects of your chanting as you relax even further. Brain health and gut health impact one another, and the vagus nerve is precisely the connection between the two. The vagal tone index can be considered as the body’s gut feeling that gets conveyed directly to the brain and produces a feedback loop of more positivity or more negativity. Stress levels are at historic highs and that can cause us to get stuck in fight or flight. Our nervous systems are getting stuck in sympathetic mode, indicating that the changes that take place in our body/mind during fight or flight are not being resolved after the event happens. Consequently, those changes, to varying degrees, stay with us for long periods. This results in chronic stress, which leads to a host of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. When the vagus nerve gets stimulated through meditation, it affects the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to come out of fight or flight, decreasing stress. Mindfulness is the fundamental human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. You can follow mindfulness by sitting down for a formal meditation practice, or by being more deliberate and aware of the things you do each day. Nearly every task we do in a day, for example brushing our teeth, eating lunch, talking with friends, or exercising, can be done more mindfully.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Vagus Nerve Part 3

 The Vagus Nerve Part 3: by Wendy Hayden

We can’t control most of our autonomic nervous system. We can’t make our heart beat slower by thinking about it or intentionally releasing a hormone. But we can control one thing that is usually controlled by our autonomic nervous system. We can control our breathing. Deep breathing activates neurons that detect our blood pressure. When we activate these neurons, they signal to the vagus nerve that our blood pressure is becoming too high. The vagus nerve then secretes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which slows the rhythm of the heart. Deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve by stretching it when it passes through our diaphragm. Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to transition to a parasympathetic state. There are many ways to practice therapeutic deep breathing and stimulate our vagus nerve. Practicing deep breathing regularly, over time, can increase our vagal tone, helping us to switch our system to a predominantly parasympathetic state, turning off our fight-or-flight response. Breathing through our nose instead of through the mouth signals our brain that we are safe. When we are stressed, we will breathe through our mouths. There are many types of deep breathing that you can practice that will help stimulate and tone your vagus nerve. Breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 6 seconds is a very basic, but effective technique. Breathing out longer than breathing in bears down on the diaphragm, making it more effective. Always exhale longer than you inhale. You want to breathe forcefully enough that your belly goes in as you inhale and out as you exhale. Take a moment and practice deep belly breathing. Put your hand on your belly and feel it expand as you breathe out. You can also place your hands on your ribs with your elbows out to your sides and breathe in, feeling your ribs expanding and filling with air, and then breathe out, feeling your ribs contracting as you release your breath. As a caution, always do any breathing exercises in a safe environment. Do not practice while in the bath, swimming, driving, or in any situation where it might not be safe to practice. I recommend sitting in a chair or couch or laying on the floor or your bed. Listen to your body and stop if you feel uncomfortable or faint. One yogic breathing technique is to breathe very deeply, expanding your belly and your chest as you take in the air. As you exhale, hum while breathing out, expelling air from your belly and chest as you hum. You want to breathe out while humming for as long as you can. Not only does the deep breathing stimulate the vagus nerve, but so does the humming. Alternate nostril breathing (ANB), or Nadi Shodhana, is another yogic breathing technique. To practice Alternate Nostril Breathing, sit quietly and breathe through each nostril separately. Plug one nostril by pressing against the nostril with your finger and breathing in the opposite nostril. Go back and forth between each nostril, slowly and rhythmically. Press your left nostril closed, breathe in through the right, then plug the right nostril, unplug the left nostril and exhale through the left, then plug the left nostril, unplug the right nostril and breathe in through the right. During this practice, have a finger closing at least one nostril at all times. Think of it as breathing air into your head through one nostril and then breathing out that air through the other nostril. Research has shown that Alternate Nostril Breathing can help lower blood pressure and increase feelings of calm. Cold exposure is increasingly being recognized as an effective way of stimulating the vagus nerve. Cold exposure can help to activate the nervous system and create a calming effect on the body. It stimulates the vagus nerve by sending a signal from the skin receptors to the brain. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to reduce stress, improve digestion, reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Cold exposure can be achieved in a few different ways. The most common way is to take a cold shower or a bath. A cold shower is a simple way to stimulate your vagus nerve daily. Ending your shower with 30 seconds-2 minutes of icy cold water can stimulate your vagus nerve. Cold water therapy, also called intermittent hypothermia or cryotherapy, is becoming more popular as it has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve skin health, and improve cognitive performance. Lowering the temperature of the water (not freezing) for a few minutes will help activate the vagus nerve. Sitting in a cold or icy pool for a few minutes can also help to stimulate the vagus nerve if you have one available. This can help to increase parasympathetic activity and improve digestion. Breathing in cold air helps to stimulate the vagus nerve. This can be done by going outside when it is cold and taking deep breaths. You can breathe in cold air, either through your nose or mouth. Simply take a deep, slow breath and hold the air in for a few seconds before exhaling. Cold can trick your body into survival mode, switching you into a sympathetic state. Studies have shown that as you adjust to cold exposure, your sympathetic response declines, and your parasympathetic response increases. If you find a cold shower too hard, you can start by putting your hands or feet in cold water. Work up to putting them in ice water and increasing the time you leave them in the water. You can also splash your face with cold water. Plunging your face in ice water triggers your dive reflex. This stimulates your vagus nerve both through the cold and from the lack of breathing. You can also use ice packs or ice to stimulate your vagus nerve. Just be careful to protect your skin so you do not get ice burn. Going outside in the cold for a few minutes or longer can also stimulate your vagus nerve. If you live in a climate where you have cold weather, you can take advantage of this simple way to stimulate your vagus nerve.