We live fast paced lifestyles, with many daily and growing responsibilities and commitments. This is impacting our stress levels and our ability to function and enjoy life. Living in a continued state of stress and rush can compound on our health and wellbeing, showing up mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
When we are stressed, feeling anxious or angry, we have a tendency to hold our breath. This can be having a bigger impact on you than you realise.
Let me introduce you to a really cool nerve called the vagus nerve. It’s the longest nerve in our body and stretches from the base of the skull, meandering down through the diaphragm, into the stomach right down to the colon.
The vagus nerve has the job of keeping our immune system functioning correctly and is a link to the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls homeostasis, our body at rest, and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function.
It keeps our heart rate regular, aids in food digestion breathing and sweating as well as other important body functions.
There is a close connection between chronic stress, our immune function, and inflammation. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” response.
Short-term activation of your sympathetic nervous system releases cortisol and helps keep your immune system healthy. Long-term stress suppresses the immune system.
Activating the vagus nerve releases hormones and enzymes such as acetylcholine and oxytocin which keeps your immune system in check, reduces inflammation, improves memory, creates feelings of relaxation, lowering the heart rate and generally calming you down.
There are several ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. One easy way is through deep slow, deliberate breathing with a sigh on the exhale (almost like you’re fogging up a mirror), known as Ujjay Paranayam in yoga.
If you do nothing else for yourself today, take five minutes for some slow, deep breaths. Holding your breath for a moment at the top of the inhale, then remembering to sigh on the exhale. Place one hand below your belly button as you breath.
Close down your eyes and enjoy the sensation of bringing your body back to homeostasis.
Author: Eminè Mehmet, CEO WELL FACULTY™WELL AP™ GSAP , FitWel Ambassador