Breath is life force and essential to supporting all the functions and systems in our bodies, thereby regulating health. As we age and go through the trials and tribulations of life, it is common that we adopt patterns of breathing that are not optimal. Some of those patterns include mouth breathing, erratic breathing, breath-holding, and even reverse breathing.
All of these patterns affect how much the diaphragm, our primary breathing muscle, is able to contract and release, corresponding to vagus nerve stimulation, the brain-gut connection, and our body’s relaxation response.
The vagus nerve is the longest in the body, running from the brainstem to the gut. Simulating the vagus nerve activates the body’s relaxation response, reducing heart rate and blood pressure.
So, how do we stimulate the vagus nerve? By first bringing attention to our current breathing pattern, and then beginning to activate the diaphragm as we breathe, taking slow, deep breaths.