Bullet Proof Your Nervous System
The inspiration for my blog comes from a student I have been teaching since 2008 Sam and also a fellow teacher Sara.
Sam is a business man and he informed me that he has been keeping his stress levels under control by practicing Pranayama the science of deep breathing on a daily basis. Deep breathing if practiced regularly helps to strengthen our parasympathetic nervous response (please see vagus nerve below). So we do not react to life but instead can act consciously when a challenge in our life arises. For this I would really recommend practicing at least 10-20 deep breaths in and out through the nose, as soon as you wake up and last thing before sleeping. Literally this practice will bullet proof your life.
Sara a fellow Kundalini teacher in Negombo and owner of Vegan Zen Café and Sat Sangat Yoga Shala, has been talking about finding simple kundalini hacks to use in times of crisis. Here is one I used the other night when I woke up and could not get back to sleep again. Simply inhale through your nose as you point your feet and exhale through your nose as you dorsiflex the feet towards you. Do this for approximately 3mins. As I was doing this I started to yawn and it really relaxed me. It acts like a full body acupuncture session.
The other hack I wanted to talk about was the vagus nerve. This 10th cranial nerve operates far below the level of our conscious minds and is vital for keeping our bodies healthy. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed ‘fight-or-flight’ adrenaline response to danger. Not all vagus nerves are the same, however: some people have stronger vagus activity, which means their bodies can relax faster after a stress.
The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone and it can be determined by using an electrocardiogram to measure heart rate. Every time you breathe in, your heart beats faster in order to speed the flow of oxygenated blood around your body. Breathe out and your heart rate slows. This variability is one of many things regulated by the vagus nerve, which is active when you breathe out but suppressed when you breathe in, so the bigger your difference in heart rate when breathing in and out, the higher your vagal tone.
Research shows that a high vagal tone makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. As part of the immune system, inflammation has a useful role helping the body to heal after an injury, for example, but it can damage organs and blood vessels if it persists when it is not needed. One of the vagus nerve’s jobs is to reset the immune system and switch off production of proteins that fuel inflammation. Low vagal tone means this regulation is less effective and inflammation can become excessive, such as in rheumatoid arthritis or in toxic shock syndrome.
The vagus nerve works as a two-way messenger, passing electrochemical signals between the organs and the brain. In chronic inflammatory disease, messages from the brain telling the spleen to switch off production of a particular inflammatory protein, tumour necrosis factor (TNF), weren’t being sent.
The final hack is to spend more time exhaling than inhaling, try this pranayama. All through the nose inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 8 counts. Do this for 3 mins.
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