Improving vagal tone

When do you feel safe? When are you on guard?

If you feel safe except when there is an actual threat to your safety, then you have high vagal tone.

If you feel guarded most or all of the time, even when there is no actual threat to your safety, you have low vagal tone. Low vagal tone can be raised.

I wonder what percentage of Americans feel threatened when they are not facing an actual threat. Perception of threat is, of course, subjective.

The vagus nerve is a big, long nerve — almost as long as the spinal cord and nearly as thick — that comes out of your brainstem, goes down your neck into your torso with branches affecting all of your organs except the adrenal glands.

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When you feel safe and relaxed, this nerve helps your organs function better. Your heartbeat slows, your breathing slows, digestion improves. This is when repairs take place.

The vagus also influences social functioning: facial expressions and whether your voice sounds animated, inviting engagement.

I’ve gotten interested in how to raise vagal tone and will be posting more about it as I research and learn. For now, here are some activities that can raise vagal tone:

  • singing or humming
  • pranayama (yogic breathing exercises)
  • gargling (it’s near the back of the throat)
  • feeling connected
  • cuddling
  • friendly eye contact
  • cold showers
  • compassion for self and others
  • gratitude
  • yoga
  • massage
  • craniosacral therapy

This is my first post while researching applications that I can use myself, share with my friends (including you), and apply to my bodywork clients. I will add links to subsequent posts below.

How to be with others with awareness of polyvagal theory

What to do when you think you’re getting sick

When I first think I might be getting sick, it’s because I’ve noticed a sudden drop in my energy level. I feel fatigued when I normally don’t. Fatigue usually precedes any other symptoms.

The best thing I can do is to stop activity right away and rest. Get still. If I’m at work, I go home. If I’m driving, I head toward home. Then I get in bed and lie still.

Once in bed, I bring my attention to my whole body. I feel my weight. I feel my skin, my breathing, my energy. I feel gratitude for my body for all the amazing, complex, behind-the-scenes work it is constantly doing that I take for granted. I appreciate my immune system.

Then I usually read and take a nap.

My rationale is that by not placing energetic demands on my body and giving it appreciation, respect, and love, I am giving my immune system all the resources it needs to do its job and nip the virus in the bud.

Often I am back on my feet in a few hours, half a day, or a day. I don’t push myself into activity until my energy feels fully restored. I keep checking in with my body.

Sometimes I want to ignore the warning signs because it isn’t convenient to stop everything and rest.

That’s when I actually get sick.

Then I consume lots of Vitamin C. I love grapefruit juice (not too sweet, loaded with Vitamin C), and Emergen-C is a product handy to keep on hand for just those times.

I drink extra water to flush toxins out of my body and avoid sugar, which weakens my immune system.

I still make mistakes, though. Several weeks ago, I started having sneezing fits. I now realize that’s the first sign that my body is reacting to pollen in the air. This usually only happens in fall and spring when it’s windy and dry.

If I had decided to stay indoors after the second sneezing fit and take Histaminum hydrochloricum, I probably would have been okay. I’m noting that for next time I have sneezing fits. Also, I will use my neti pot (with water that’s been boiled first, of course).

Instead, I got full-blown allergy symptoms a few hours after the first sneezing fit: super-sensitive nasal passages, sinus drainage, and sore throat, with a feeling of inflammation in my nose and throat.

Even though acupuncture helped relieve the allergy symptoms, every time I went outside, I was re-exposed to the allergens, and it overwhelmed my immune system. I got a sinus infection.

More acupuncture and lots of Vitamin C helped me get over that without resorting to antibiotics. I feel very grateful for that.

New blog milestones and best massage ever given

Sometime this weekend when I wasn’t looking, my blog passed 60,000 views! This is a labor of love, and I can’t measure my “success” in monetary terms. Blog views, likes, and comments are my currency.

Thank you for reading me.

And…yesterday I had my best single day ever with 426 views! That’s pretty astonishing, considering the average number of views per day in 2012 (so far) has been 182.

I took the whole weekend off, spending a good chunk of it out in the country at a friend’s remote ranch. Clean air, water, cattle, a river, lots of trees, big sky, silence (compared to the city), a sweet porch on which I did a couple of great yoga sequences, soaking in a metal tub filled with well water, and lots of laughter were just the ticket for rest and relaxation.

I didn’t do a stroke of bodywork all weekend (except a little self-massage on my shoulders and arms). This morning I gave what felt to me like the best massage I’ve ever given, a 90-minute full body massage combining Swedish, deep, pressure points, rocking, reflexology, and lots of attention to her neck, shoulders, and hips. My client really appreciated it. Her week started extremely well.

If you’re looking for a great massage, consider booking one in the morning when your massage therapist is feeling refreshed, especially after a couple of days off! If you’re in the Austin area, I’d love your business!

See you later, with the first turnaround of Byron Katie’s Work!

Claiming some me time

Like the Energizer bunny, I’ve just kept going and going, with work and training and teaching and transitioning toward a new home, and then things started to go not so well. Low back-ache, fatigue, muscle tension, losing things, not handling a situation well, emotional sensitivity, feeling close to overwhelm.

As in, “If one more difficult thing happens, I’m going to lose it, and it’s not going to be pretty.”

As much as I like to meet life from a place of strength and resilience, sometimes that isn’t what’s real.

So I declared this afternoon as me time. You know. Solitary unpressured time — several hours of it — to rest, ruminate, and recover.

I even cancelled my restorative yoga class, which I try not to do, because I know when you need it, you need it, and it’s disappointing if it’s not available.

Yogis and yoginis, namaste. It’s savasana time for me, and for you if you need it! And, I am changing our class time to 7:30-9 pm so we can all have more “day” to enjoy on Sundays, then eat lightly, do the class, drive home, and go to bed all relaxed.

How does that sit with you?

We all need time to be active, time for sleep, and time for rest. In this case, I have not been getting enough rest.

Rest is when I check in with myself and get back on track, reconnect with myself and recenter.

It’s actually one of the best parts about being human. That we can do this!!!

And now, I’m going within, to get in touch with my feelings, breathe, maybe cry a little, curl up with Mango, and get some rest. And plan how to intervene with myself a little bit sooner so this doesn’t happen again. I hate disappointing people! I believe it may be time to restart my regular sitting practice, which has become irregular.

Yep. This is what happens when I don’t meditate. Yep, I’m really remembering that now.