So who knew there was a polyvagal nerve that runs from the top of your head to the bottom of your spine, that it connects all your major organs and senses and is how the feelings of fear spread to every part of your body in an instant?

Not me.

Who knew that it is possible to tone your polyvagal nerve so that when those feelings of fear spread to every part of your body in an instant that there are lots of actions you can take to soothe the polyvagal nerve and yes the first one is breathing.

But not just in and out breathing – hold your breath breathing, cube breathing, longer on the out breath breathing.  Creating that feeling like you are swimming under water and you want to reach the end but you’ve run out of breath and your lungs are burning – that feeling.

But basically breathing.  

It does take practise though as the more activated the polyvagal nerve is the harder you need to work to calm it and if you didn’t know what it was, like I didn’t, and it has been on high alert since you were around 6, its going to take a lot more than just one deep breath to tame it!

But it works, practising daily breath work when you are at your most calm so that you are ready to use it when you feel the polyvagal nerve being activated is essential. Its like preparing for an exam, you don’t just rock up and expect to be able to pass. You need to do the work.

But what if I don’t feel activated – what if I feel nothing? Well first of all big hug to you because you may have numbed out.  Your system may be so overwhelmed and so outside of its window of tolerance (that lovely space where life is calm and you feel capable and confident) that it has stopped feeling anything so that you can function.

If this is you, start slowly as once you do start to feel again it will feel uncomfortable, can be overwhelming, possibly unsafe even, so please make sure you have support around you and you work with someone who can help you.

It fascinates me how something so natural and free that we can all do is met with raised eyebrows, rolling eyes, a chuckle, a comment such as “yeah right like its that easy” but it is.

But your ability to breathe in a way that will help you tone your vagus nerve is impacted by how your brain perceives danger.  Your subconscious has been breathing for you just fine thank you very much and it is keeping you safe (but not happy) so any suggestion that breathing needs to change will be met by resistance as it is different.  

Daily practice of breathing will slowly allow the subconscious to be reprogrammed which will allow you to tone your vagus nerve and little by little bring a sense of relaxation to your life.  And that’s how it starts.

Yes there is more too it than that but lets not get overwhelmed with the science or the right way to do it or have to buy a book.

But if you do want to know more Stephen Porges is the man to read about – it’s his theory:

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