For a short biology lesson: The pneumogastric nerve originates in the brainstem and runs from the neck and neck to the abdomen. Also called “wandering nerve”, [it] is the largest nerve pathway in the body. It is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for “rest and digestion,” says Kimberly Schmidt Bevans, LMHC, a licensed mental health consultant and certified dance and movement therapist in Brooklyn, Massachusetts. The nerve acts as a messenger between your body and your brain, sending love notes (okay, “signals”) that it ‘s time to relax, assimilate and recover. “Whether we know it or not, the pneumogastric nerve is necessary to recover from trauma, stress and survival situations, which bring us back together, relaxed and balanced in our body and brain,” adds Bevans.
“[T]”The pneumogastric nerve is necessary to recover from trauma, stress and survival situations, restoring us to connection, rest and balance in our body and brain.” —Kimberly Schmidt Bevans, LMHC
Learning to press the pneumogastric nerve is a valuable skill in times of crisis. “When we can access our pneumogastric nerve, we can block our parasympathetic nervous system that helps relax our bodies,” says Monica Nastasi, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker and physical therapist in Brooklyn, New York. “When our body is more relaxed, we can pause and evaluate our automatic thoughts that fuel stress. When we are able to evaluate these thoughts, our body relaxes more.” This creates a more positive conversation between your brain and your body, which – let’s face it – we all want right now.
This all sounds great, but how exactly should you stimulate the pneumogastric nerve? It’s easier than you think. Keep reading for tricks that will help you calm down when these anxious thoughts get out of control.
How to stimulate your pneumogastric nerve, according to therapists
I know breathing is about as cliché as, say, “follow your dreams” these days, but there is a reason it has been around for thousands, thousands of years: it works. “One way to access your pneumogastric nerve and relax is to take slow, deep breaths from your abdomen, focusing on long exhalations. Try to put your hands on your abdomen while inhaling for four measurements, holding for four measurements. “Exhale for six measurements and hold for two measurements. Repeat this six times,” says Nastasi.
2. Deal with people you love
“Feeling safe with another person and in relationships is a key component of mental health and well-being. Polyvarus Theory and Stephen Porges’s work focus on co-ordinating relationships in one part of the pneumogastric nervous system,” he says. Bevans. This is called “ventricular parenthesis social engagement” and you can use it by hanging out with those who love and support you. So go ahead: Call one of your mom. Make an appointment for coffee with a friend. Ask your important one for lunch.
Take an iced shower
According to the Bevans, an icy shower or a brisk winter walk also stimulates the pneumogastric nerve. A small study in 2018 found that cold stimulation in the back of the neck resulted in higher heart rate variability (HRV) – the time variation between each heartbeat – and a lower heart rate (a heart change that indicates pulmonary pneumococcal stimulation). stress). While more research is needed to fully understand this connection, it’s extremely new to those digging an icy shower.
4. Meditate and do yoga
Like the cold shower, meditation can help increase HRV and, consequently, activate the pneumogastric nerve. There is also some research suggesting that the deliberate movement and breathing you do in yoga can help tone the pneumogastric, but again, more research is needed to be able to know for sure.
Take a quick yoga class to say hello to your pneumogastric nerve:
Oh Hello! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts on modern wellness brands and exclusive Well + Good content. Join Well +, our online wellness community and unlock your rewards right away.