Our nervous system has two main branches: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. The parasympathetic branch is associated with relaxation and calm, while the sympathetic branch triggers the fight or flight response when it perceives a threat or danger.
Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of our nervous system, triggering prolonged fight or flight responses. This can lead to issues like chronic muscle tension, high blood pressure, digestive problems, anxiety, and inflammation.
In this episode, I share my personal experience with an unbalanced nervous system and discuss the vagus nerve, polyvagal theory, and tools and techniques to regulate and calm your nervous system.
Practical tools for nervous system healing include:
- Breathwork: Engaging the diaphragm with extended exhales and diaphragmatic breathing signals safety to the brain, particularly through long, slow exhales.
- Yoga: Specific poses like surfboard, legs up the wall, supported bridge pose, prone poses, and twists directly target the vagus nerve, promoting relaxation and nervous system regulation.
- Humming or Chanting: Vibrating the vocal cords through techniques like brahmari or chanting “om” stimulates the vagus nerve, calming the mind and deactivating the fear center of the brain.
- Cold Therapy: Applying cold water or ice to areas where the vagus nerve is close to the surface invigorates and calms the nerve. Cold showers or targeted exposure can effectively regulate the nervous system.
- Laughter: Contraction of the diaphragm during laughter stimulates the vagus nerve. Laughing or engaging in laughter yoga can release tension and activate the relaxation response.
We also delve into polyvagal theory, which focuses on the two branches of the vagus nerve: the ventral vagal (relaxation response) and the dorsal vagal (shut down and freeze state). The theory highlights the importance of understanding our nervous system’s hierarchy, neuroception, and co-regulation.
Our nervous system is an integral part of our overall well-being. By understanding its functioning and implementing practical techniques for regulation, we can promote physical and mental health, and experience a greater sense of calm and well-being.
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