A quiet evening with your vagus nerve

Your body needs time to receive

Click on the image to view this weeks video on the vagus nerve and easy breathing
There is a crazy emphasis on giving, giving, giving, here in the USA during the holidays. The sheer volume of it can be so overwhelming that your body starts to shut down.

You need ample time and space to physically receive what is given, to savor it, digest it, and finally integrate it into your being. You need to remember your ability to say no thank you, I’m full! (Go HERE to register for the next Better Boundaries workshop :-).

Your vagus nerve is responsible for the sequence and pacing of how what is received moves through you. Why not spend a quiet evening with your vagus and a nice cup of hot tea this holiday season?

Exploring the rhythmic interplay between reception and action is what Cranial Nerve Sequencing is all about, and it really helps with materialism overwhelm.

Right now, in this moment, you are receiving fresh air from the atmosphere and support from the earth. Sounds are caressing your ears. Muscles are softly supporting you, light and color surrounds you.

Does reading those sentences slow you down? I hope so. Cranial nerves 1 through 9 activate various sense organs and movement related to perception of the world around you.

What’s special about the vagus, or cranial nerve 10, is that it receives information from deep inside you.

That information is subtle and non-specific, so it doesn’t stand out as much as discomfort or powerful stimuli from your surroundings. It takes time to tune in.

Each time you take a sip of tea, get curious about the sensation of the fluid as it goes down your throat. Can you savor that sensation until it disappears into the mystery of your belly?

Cranial nerve 10 oversees all the internal processes by which you take in food, air, and water. It chooses the rhythm and timing of those processes without any input from your conscious mind. It also in opens your system to social connection or responds to social distress or danger.

Your vagus will take its sweet time if what you take in is good, savoring every vitamin and mineral, every hug, every sweet human interaction.

It will make you upchuck if what you take in is dangerous and it will move the dangerous stuff through you as quickly as possible.

Illustration: Science Photo Library

The vagus emerges from your brain stem right near your ear canal. Two branches run down either side of your neck, wrapping delicately around the heart, trachea, diaphragm, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, liver, and on down into your belly. It also innervates a small area of skin right inside your ear canal which you can gently stimulate with touch.

Schematic of potential pathways through which stimulation of the auricular branch of the vagus nerve (ABN) could influence the heart.

The auricular branch of the vagus indirectly affects your heartbeat and breathing rate by sensing the chemical content of your blood. Your diaphragm makes it’s fullest easiest excursion if you don’t force the timing of your breath. Breathing in turn releases the ribs, chest, and back, “un-stiffening” you from the inside out and oxygenating all your tissues. 

These motor actions will compress your vagus nerve and make it unhappy:
  • Bracing your neck and head
  • Stiffening neck and shoulders
  • Pushing your shoulders down into your back or ribs
  • Holding your stomach in, especially on an inhale

Watch this weeks video for a movement and imagery practice affecting your vagus and breathing. We are biologically hardwired to snuggle in the winter season, to rest, to dream, and to digest on the deepest levels all that we have been given. I hope this practice will help ground you!

If you want to go deeper than this weeks video, HERE and HERE are links to recordings of workshops I’ve done on Cranial Nerves 0 – 9 as a fundraiser for the Judith Leibowitz Scholarship Fund. You can access the full workshops for a donation of your choice.

Merry Happy!

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