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Breathing for the Brain: Exhaling for Vagus

 

The the function of the autonomic nervous system is critical for the health of the body. The autonomic system consists of two branches.⁣

1. The sympathetic system which reacts to stress and dictates a fight or flight response.⁣

2. The parasympathetic system which calms the body down for resting and digesting.⁣

Both systems are important for survival and health. But many of us spend far too much time in fight or flight which comes with detrimental long term health impact.⁣

Prolonged and unchecked fight or flight is suspected to play a role in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. ⁣

It’s not easy to change our personalities & how we react to stress. But it’s important that if we have a lot of stress, that we keep the stress physiology in check.⁣

A simple and free way to do that, that takes no additional use of your time is changing your 𝗯𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗽𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀.⁣



Many of us breath in a way that is fast and shallow, but neurologically this can bias our sympathetic nervous system.⁣

When we inhale rapidly, our sympathetic nerves tend to fire more which keeps our heart rates slightly elevated.⁣



Breathing out has the opposite effect. It tends to activate our vagus nerve and slows down our heart rate.⁣

A simple way to get more parasympathetic activation from our vagus nerve is just to spend more time breathing out! ⁣

It’s too simple, but really effective.⁣

Here’s how you can work on this:⁣


1. When you are reading, watching TV, working on the computer, getting ready for sleep, start focusing on slowing your breath.⁣

2. Take normal breaths in, but start focusing on doubling the number of seconds breathing out. ⁣

If it takes 2 seconds to breathe in, spend a full 4 seconds breathing out. If it takes 3 seconds to breathe in, spend 6 seconds out.⁣

Try to go as slow as possible. ⁣

Initially the breath out will feel strange, but you are training yourself to breathe differently so it is normal to be uncomfortable.⁣

Within weeks of practice, your natural pattern will change, and this can have significant effect on your physiology.