First I want to start with a tiny disclaimer. If you suspect you have a health problem, speak with a licensed health care practitioner before exploring any suggestions in this blog. Thank you.
Before I get into the actual meditation or practice as it were, what is the Vagus system? The Vagus nerve is one of the lower cranial nerves, branching out from the medulla and enervating many systems in the trunk of the human body.
Why is the Vagus nerve important? In all of my (limited) work with Cranial Sacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Reiki Energetic Healing and other modalities, I have yet to encounter one body system which plays such an important role, as the Vagus system does. Primarily the Vagus nerve transmits the messages from the brain to the body (and just as crucially body to brain) regarding whether or not the organism is in fight or flight or freeze mode or in rest and digest mode. These “modes” refer to the state of mental alertness and arousal, with regard to perceived threats or safety.
Why are these modes of alertness important? Well, if we are in fight or flight mode, then our heart is pumping a bit faster and our outer (limb) muscles are receiving the lion’s share of vital oxygenated blood, because we to be ready to fight the sabertooth tiger or be able to run away. And as a result, if our body is (consciously or not) in hyper-vigilant mode, then we will not use the outer cortices of our brain as efficiently as we could otherwise, and we will not properly digest our food. Wowsers!! Right?
The Vagus nerve plays a role in the following, and this list is not exhaustive, heart rate, breath rate, gut function, adrenal / kidney activity, eye function, ear function, throat / upper digestion function, skin tone and more. What a list! Therefore if there is a way we can regulate our Vagus system, to help it to relax in this rat-race culture, why wouldn’t we want to try it? Or we could just sit around being hyper-vigilant for no apparent reason (there are reasons, we just might not realize it, which is the subject for another post). And as I mentioned, if we are in alert mode, then the reactive, instinctive, fight-or-flight centers of the brain will get the necessary blood flow. This means that the outer cortices will be used sparingly, which constricts our creative processes. In other words, we can think clearer about certain subjects if we are relaxed and digesting with ease.
Now on to the meditation. Several things one must read, and contemplate, and understand first and foremost. I am emphasizing this for a reason. I am a student of Zapchen Somatics and Therefore a student of Julie Henderson, PhD. She is the creator of this phenomenal modality. Within Zapchen, there are certain ground rules which we learn first. And these are vital.
Zapchen is a modality which can in itself start to relax the Vagus system. If you can, I would recommend finding a Zapchen teacher to work with. Personally I have been given permission to work with individuals, but I am by no means a Zapchen teacher. Anyway, in Zapchen work we learn these guidelines first.
If something is uncomfortable, don’t do it. Period. If you must do it, express your objections first – either complain or moan and groan or find someone around whom you can discharge.
If you notice your body tightening up to continue doing an exercise, stop immediately. This is a message from your body that you have had enough. This also includes your breathing. If you are breathing shallowly or too heavy to do an exercise, then stop!
And finally, you need to know your limits.. Don’t push too hard early on. Less is better than more, always do less rather than toughing it out. And if you get light headed or taste metal, then absolutely stop as you might be dehydrated.
The meditation: sit comfortably. Or you can lie down, but there is a good chance that early on you will fall asleep. Notice your breathing, is it shallow or deep? No judgment, but is there anywhere that your diaphragm is adhesed? Nothing wrong if it is a little tight somewhere.
Remember less is better than more. If you want to rest, then by all means give your body what it needs.
First, hum into your mouth and nasal passages, get used to humming into your body. Use a comfortable, easy tone. Then hum into your pineal gland (behind the center of your eye brows). Just a little, don’t over stimulate anything. Next, hum into your pituitary gland, behind the center of your eyes. Then, if this is still comfortable, resting when it feels appropriate, hum into your brain stem (this must be comfortable, if not, stop immediately and rest). The brain stem is located inside of the back and base of your skull.
If you have rested and are still awake, you can continue by humming into your thyroid gland. This is just above where your collar bones come together, below the Adam’s apple. Next we will hum into the thymus gland, which basically sits above the heart. This is an important gland for the immune system. Now rest for a few minutes, come back if you want to.
When you are ready, hum into your kidneys. For some people, you can actually feel them ache if you lead a hectic, caffeinated life. You hum into one at a time or together. This will also include the adrenal glands which are sitting on top of each kidney. Finally, if this still comfortable, hum into your reproductive glands and organs (ovaries in women, prostate in men). Then go take a twenty minute nap! I would only do this humming meditation once a week or less. We do not want to “over-treat” any organ or endocrine gland.
I hope this is beneficial.