I am excited to share this simple neck release I've been doing to chill out and reset!
First, a little background:
The vagus nerve is one of the cranial nerves that begins in the skull and connects several organs with the brain. It is an essential part of our nervous system that regulates our arousal. When we are in danger, anxious, or need to fight we depend on our sympathetic nervous system to shunt blood to our muscular system so we can react quickly! When we are safe, the vagus nerve signals the body to resume blood flow to the intestines, slow the heart rate, relax respiration and allow all systems to rest. Research on vagal tone shows that it has positive clinical affects on digestion, IBS, depression, PTSD, and heart rate variability. Many therapies, such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga affect vagal tone and can be used to help you relax and regulate your nervous system.
Ok, here is the simple exercise you can do at home:
This will affect your vagus nerve and shift your body into a more relaxed state. It uses eye movement to engage sub occipital muscles at the base of the skull, drawing the first two vertebra into alignment.
Click here to listen: audio clip from Meditative Minds ~ gentle tones and marimba
Gently interlock your fingers and cradle your head in your hands so that the back of your head is resting in your palms
Face forward, looking at ceiling or sky if laying down. Your hands, arms and head will stay in the same position throughout the exercise
Moving your eyeballs only, look to the right for 30-60 secs. You will know when to return eyes to center when you feel a shift in breathing, a yawn, or other sensation of relaxation, release, or calm. This may be subtle.
Repeat, moving eyeballs only, looking to the left
Relax, gently observe your breath, and rest in a comfortable position
Repeat if desired.
You can practice this anytime.
It is especially helpful at bedtime and you can return to it if you wake in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
Share with a friend!
You can teach your loved ones this simple, yet powerful way how to connect in and find a calmer space.
Accessing the Healing power of the Vagus Nerve: self help exercises for anxiety, depression, trauma and autism by Stanley Rosenburg. Penguin RandomHouse Books 2017 ISBN: 9781623170240.
Breit S, Kupferberg A, Rogler G, Hasler G. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:44. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044
Photo by Sander Smeekes on Unsplash