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Recalibrate Your State

In my last article, I wrote about how we can calm and soothe the nervous system, respond more effectively to the stressors in our lives and manage our emotional states with our breathing. More specifically, I mentioned that the vagus nerve plays a principal role in the process of reaching in to the state of calm, cool and collected. We can stimulate the vagus nerve to communicate to the brain to signal the body’s systems to calibrate to the state of “rest and digest” through the practice of abdominal breathing. Here are some additional suggestions and strategies to consider:

Bring your awareness to your breathing patterns throughout the day.

When at rest or sitting at your desk, do you breathe primarily in the chest area or do you feel the breath movement in the abdomen as well? If you put one hand on the abdomen and the other on the chest, which hand moves first as you inhale? Ideally, the hand on the abdomen should shift first at the onset of the inhale. Set up a reminder system such as stickers strategically placed or an alarm on your phone to trigger the habit of checking in. When you are prompted, pause and take 2-3 deep abdominal breaths.

Notice your posture.

Breathing is most efficient with neutral positioning of the pelvis and the ribcage aligned directly above with the spine in neutral as well. There is much more information and nuances to explore on this subject alone. For the sake of brevity here, do your best not to slouch or tilt your pelvis too much toward the extreme of one direction or the other (anteriorly or posteriorly). If you are unsure about your posture, seek out an evaluation from a professional. It’s quite informative and worth the investment for your overall health and well-being.

Shape your Breath.

Practice modulating your breath pattern to create an equality of length of the inhale and exhale. Count using whatever method works best for you to breathe in for X counts and exhale for X counts. When at rest (such as when you are preparing to settle in for the night), gradually begin to extend the exhale longer than the inhale by 1, 2, or 4 counts.

Hum.

The vibration in the throat region created by humming stimulates the vagus nerve. Try inhaling to fill the lungs to capacity and then humming a continuous sound for the duration of the exhale.

Get on the Coregeous Ball!

Rolling out the abdomen with this pliable ball not only cultivates a resiliency of the abdominal wall tissues to help increase breath capacity, but the massage of the internal organs activates the vagus nerve as well.

Practice.

Keep in mind that changing or improving breath patterns and developing healthy vagal tone is a practice and requires commitment and consistency. We are all a work in progress. And we can begin (or continue) with the very next breath.

Other references:

Enjoyed this article? Read The Power of the Pause

About This Author

Elissa Dawn Strutton, E-RYT is a certified Yoga Tune Up ® instructor and is also a certified Forrest Yoga teacher. She delights in sharing the gifts of yoga with others and is committed to providing a space that facilitates healing, self-discovery and personal growth. Elissa’s classes are challenging, yet accessible as she supports students of all levels with skillful adjustments and posture modifications. She encourages her students to connect deeply with the breath while practicing with mindfulness, honesty and integrity.

Recalibrate Your State

  1. Corena Purcell says:

    I appreciate the direction here that accompanies the suggestions. I’ve just recently been introduces to the Vagus Highway and am so very fascinated with it’s implications.

  2. Mary Jane Wilkie says:

    This article provides valuable tips for breathing without going into extensive description of the process. The reader is made aware of the vagus nerve and its function, and then suggestions that are easy to incorporate into work at the computer. Depending on the arrangement of one’s office, one could even hum while sitting at the desk!

  3. Carrie says:

    I was only recently introduced to the courageous ball and love it! I love the use for stimulation if the GI tract, but had not considered the implication of the effect on the Vagus nerve. This is exciting! Thank you!

  4. Dejia B. says:

    Great tips – especially for office life! Work life gets so stressful that I KNOW I’m not breathing into my belly first – or all together holding my breath at times because I get so frustrated. I’m really going to make an effort to employ better breathing techniques at work not just to better my physical body, but also my emotional body. Thanks for the ideas!

  5. Jeanette Johnsson says:

    Thank you for this reminder of awareness on the breath, and how it´s always there to help us enter into the rest- and digest system. And there is always that next breath to practice on 😉

  6. Jennifer Mayer says:

    I have been aware of my desk posture and have improved it so much over the years. I still need to be reminded to breathe fully and properly during my work day. I always have a tote of YTU balls at my desk, but perhaps bringing the Coregeous ball to work and using in on my 15 will bring more awareness and calm to my breath throughout the day.

  7. Daryl Baucum says:

    I personally enjoy the soft humming on the exhale. I find it helps me sustain the breathing for a longer duration.

  8. Kelly says:

    Great article on how to bring awareness to your breath. In the past I have followed a series of postures to systematically deepen my breath and make me aware of where I am not breathing as deeply as I should be. I love the reference to humming to stimulate the vagus nerve. As a Kundalini yoga instructor, the intimate relationship between sound mantra as a means to stimulate different parts of your body through vibration or meridians in order to better your health is paramount.

  9. Susan says:

    I love this article! I am looking more up on vagus nerve. So interesting!

  10. stephanie blazi says:

    Great article! this is a fantastic reminder to breathe!

  11. Sophie Desmarais says:

    Thank you. This is definitely a great reminder to be more mindful of my posture and breath throughout the day!

  12. Karina says:

    J’adore le fait de suggérer de se faire des petits ”aide mémoire” afin de se souvenir durant les la journée de prendre des respirations profondes…. ce qui aura définitivement un impact sur notre degré de stress et nos activités quotidiennes.
    Merci de nous rappeler également que, pour avoir une respiration optimale, nous devons organiser notre corps dans un état physique optimal!

  13. Lyndsey says:

    Great tips- can defiantly use these techniques in our office!

  14. Elissa, thankyou, for suggesting some nice simple practices to help one to recalibrate to the state of “rest and digest” by stimulating the Vagus Nerve, I especially like to do the the Humming or Bee breath practice.. wonderfully relaxing, also finding a way to remind oneself to be aware of one’s breath, I like to use the headspace App which PINGS a reminder to be mindful and be aware of how im breathing, regularly through the day.

  15. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for providing these simple tips to soothe the nervous system. It’s so interesting to learn that humming stimulates the vagus nerve.

  16. Évelyne Paquin says:

    Merci! Une routine à ajouter à mon quotidien! J’ai tendance à avoir de la difficile à prendre de grande inspiration, probablement du au tensions logées au niveau de ma cage thoracique.
    Il faut absolument que je m’exerce à moduler ma respiration et prendre le temps de d’ajuster mes postures.

  17. Rena says:

    Hi
    Great article on the breath and
    thanks for reminding me that I need to research the vagus nerve some more. So important for yoga teachers and well… everyone to be aware of.

  18. Mari says:

    an excellent reminder about the importance of our breath – thank you!

  19. Andrea says:

    I really like the idea of setting reminders throughout your day. Work is stressful and becoming aware of your breath, adjusting posture, and then lengthening the exhale a little more are easy to do at work. I’m not so sure about the Coregeous Ball at the office, but certainly would be great at home.

  20. Laura Cornish says:

    Great breakdown of breathing tips that can be easily incorporated into your day. I didn’t know that humming stimulates the vagus nerve! Something so many of us do unconsciously that we could incorporate into breathing exercises.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I often don’t know where to start when I feel I need to calm my nervous system. This is a really nice and simple list that I think anyone can use which makes me think I could incorporate this into my daily life pretty easily.

  22. maryday says:

    I’m a big fan of the breath. I never thought of making the sound “hum” before to stimulate the vagus nerve system. I will definitely try this in my class! thanks!

  23. Eva Jedlovsky says:

    I love the idea of leaving stickers around to remind you to breathe. I trained myself to use my abdomen when breathing while practicing yoga but will try to check on myself how I am breathing during the day.

  24. maryday says:

    I never thought of lying on the corgeous ball can help increase breath capacity. Thanks for the tip!

  25. Heidi Schaul-Yoder says:

    I didn’t know that humming is stimulating for the vagus nerve, that is fascinating! I love the idea of setting reminders to check in with the breath throughout the day, so we can begin to notice our breathing habits and from there begin to shift them.

  26. Michelle Pitman says:

    What a great idea to setup sticker reminders around your desk for a breath break! I also was excited to see some discussion regarding the vagus nerve and will be reading the tagged article you referenced next 😉

  27. Karen Stillman says:

    Wonderfully done, getting back to the basics! If everyone did 5 each waking hour of the day, I bet there would be a great reduction in stress in people’s lives. Also the hum can be called honey bee breath in certain types of yoga.

  28. Katy says:

    I agree w all of this advice on breathing, I tell my corp yogis to set an alarm to get up and move so taking full breathes is a great reminder too!!

  29. Jen Wheaton says:

    One of the greatest gifts of my practice has been just to simply notice my breathing patterns with bare attention, or the places where the breath becomes stuck. Noticing is key to be able to engage in any other type of breath where there’s an intention to change the breath, so I spend a lot of time instructing my students through just noticing, without doing or changing a thing, to their unique rhythm of breath. When we notice our patterns we can induce some subtle changes in posture or in the way in which we breath, and like you said, always a work in progress!

  30. Riannon says:

    This is great! I love the idea of strategically placing stickers as a reminder to check in with the breath.

  31. Christine Phillips says:

    Great reminders to breathe intentionally! Never tried the humming, but it is interesting. I have heard that sighing is good also.

  32. Claudia Muehlenweg says:

    Thanks for all those reminders! Will post sticky notes at my desk and roll on the Coregeous ball first thing in the morning. Despite my yoga and vision improvement trainings, i still catch myself slouching and doing chest breathing when stressed out, but its slowly getting better. Like you said, we are all a work in progress!

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