Vagus Nerve Breathing

Vagus Nerve breathing exercises trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and help us calm down as it actives the heart rate variability. We do this by breathing deeply and slowly from our diaphragm. If you breathe through your nose all the better.

You can visualise filling up the lower part of your lungs, just above the navel like a balloon. Place your hands on your stomach, watch your hands as you breathe in. They should rise. If they don’t you’re breathing from higher up and this is too shallow.

The vagus nerve runs down from your brain and connects your major organs. Grundy in 2002 discovered the vagal pathways affected the regulation of mood connecting the orbitofrontal cortex, insula, hippocampus and amygdala. Buddhist monks use slow breathing to reduce the heartbeat and slow everything down.

It’s better if we breathe out slightly longer than we breathe in. 7/11 breathing means that you breathe in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. However, some people, particularly if they smoke or have asthma struggle with this so I use this technique.

Exercise for Vagus Nerve Breathing

Sit down on a comfortable chair.

Place your hands on your stomach and breath in slowly but deeply, so your hands lift.

Breathe out slowly and relax your shoulders as you breathe out.

Now as you breathe in, count. Breathe in to your fullest capacity. What number did you reach?

Now on your breath out count again and add 1. (so if you breathed in for 5, breathe out for 6)

Also try and relax your muscles as you breath out.

Now breathe in to the count of your top number.

Breathe out and add 2 (so if you breathed in for 5 breathe out for 7)

Now breathe in for your top number.

Breathe out and add 3. (if this is too difficult stick the the increased number which suits you best)

Breathe in to your top count and this time say an affirmation which resonates with you such as “Breathe in Calm”, Peace,
Relax, Love, Compassion etc

Now breathe out to your higher count and this time say to yourself “Breath out tension”, Stress, Anger, Fear, Envy etc

Carry on doing this for at least 5 minutes.

This can help lower the number of beats our hearts make and decrease blood pressure.

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