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Taking Charge in 5 Minutes 

Taking Charge in 5 Minutes 

May 2019 

I didn’t see it. I was hauling down the backside of Olde Stage for the 100th time, and I still didn’t see it. A large gouge in the asphalt jarred my whole body, causing my phone to fly out of my Bento box and land with a splat – shattered to smithereens in a split second. “That could have been my head” was all I could think. 

The following Sunday, new 

phone tucked securely in my 

jersey, I headed down the same 

road and immediately – gouge in 

the road nowhere in sight -my 

wheels started wobbling. As I 

picked up speed, the wobble 

increased until I was sure I’d 

crash. A near miss – this time – and the image of my shattered phone came up. 

What was going on?? I’d been down steeper roads without any wobble at all, so it wasn’t my wheels. No, it was my nervous system going on high alert. It happens anytime you sense danger and try to protect yourself. For me, the part of the brain that coordinates and regulates muscular activity went bonkers. Former riding pros told me this wobble is not uncommon when inexperienced riders get in dangerous situations. 

The next week, I wanted to just avoid that road, but I also knew I had to figure it out. And I did. The next time I started down the steep descent, I started OHMMing. With each exhale, I made the ohm sound. That ohm sound changed everything. No shaking, no tension, no crashes.

Without knowing it, I was activating the Parasympathetic nervous system and stimulating the Vagus nerve. And that was helping my body stay calm in the face of danger. Ohm-mazing. 

Our bodies and minds have different states of alertness. Studying for an exam or slamming on the brakes to avoid a crash activates the Sympathetic nervous system. We automatically become stimulated by some perceived threat or danger – and that helps us increase focus and react quickly. It helps keep us safe. Once the danger is over, or crisis averted, it’s important to return to a calm steady state. This is called self regulation and is an important function of our nervous system. Perceived threats can be small things, like getting stuck in traffic when you’re late for work, or worrying about lifting a box because that was how you hurt your back before. We experience small, unpleasant stimuli everyday, but too many of us aren’t able to self-regulate. 

When a nervous system is 

activated frequently, we 

never completely recover. 

This can happen if we have 

experienced a lot of 

adversity in our early lives 

or frequent, low level 

stressors everyday. A 

persistent “danger” state 

increases inflammation, 

makes breathing rapid and 

shallow, gives us sluggish or 

overactive intestines, and makes us more sensitive to pain. These changes can be helpful in the short term to “fight or flee” from a stressor, but if they continue long term it’s a problem.

Activating the Vagus nerve can do wonders for you. It facilitates rest, digest and repair. Your intestines move more (a good thing), inflammation goes down, sleep gets better and calm prevails. 

Check out our “go to” exercises proven to increase Vagus nerve activation: 

Gargling

Fill up a cup of water and 

take a moderate sip. Leaning 

the head back, vigorously 

gargle the water for as long 

as possible. Once out of air, 

swallow the water and repeat 

until the glass is empty. Do 

1-2 cups of water per day. 

Pursed Lip Breathing

Inhale through the nose, and exhale gently but intentionally through pursed lips for as long as possible without straining. Then pause for 3 seconds before inhaling again. Do: 3-5 minutes 1-2 times per day. 

Humming

Take a normal sized inhale 

through your nose, then exhale 

and hum at a frequency that 

vibrates the throat, chest, and 

maybe even the abdomen. Go 

as long as possible without 

straining, then breathe back in 

through the nose and repeat. 

Continue this for 2-5 minutes. 

Perform this exercise 2x/day. 

Great places to do this are in the 

car or in the shower.

Palming

Gently place the palms over 

the orbits of the face, 

without actually pressing on 

the eyes themselves. The 

eyelids should be closed. 

Notice the darkest areas of 

your visual space and let the 

eyes settle into orbits. Do: 5 

minutes 2-3 times per day 

So if pain has taken charge, tension is your middle name, your back muscles have a vice grip on your spine, or your stomach is tied in knots, these exercises are for you. And there’s more you can do. Call today – we can help you 

turn things around!

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