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MeditationBreathing to Self-Soothe

Breathing to Self-Soothe

Our nervous systems are key in the conversation between mental and physical wellness. Today, Elisha teaches you how to use deep belly breathing as a tool to stimulate the vagus nerve and calm your body’s stress response.

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Alicia here. Thanks for joining me today. Many of us carry feelings of discomfort throughout our day, both emotional and physical. And when we are feeling unsettled in our bodies, it can make it difficult to go about our tasks or to connect with others in the way we want to. Some of this has to do with our nervous system. Our nervous system runs throughout our body, from the top of our head, all the way to the bottom of the spine, and it's responsible for sending messages between the brain and body. Our sympathetic nervous system is home to our fight or flight response, which can make us feel stressed or anxious, like we need to jump into action. And our parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite. Some call it our tend and befriend system. It's what relaxes us. The good news is there's a way for us to intentionally stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system. We can do it through what's called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is an important component of our parasympathetic nervous system. And when we practice slow belly breathing, the vagus nerve is stimulated, allowing our nervous system to find some recovery and calmness. So today we are going to play with some deep belly breathing to allow us room for calm. This exercise is best suited to lying down on your back, if it's available to you in this moment. But also, feel free to sit or stand. Find yourself a comfortable position, hands by the sides, feet naturally falling outward, and if it feels right, go ahead and close your eyes. Take a few regular breaths here. When you are ready, if you can, place your hands on your belly and begin to notice the movement of your breath as your belly moves up and down. Now as you lie here, focus on letting go of the tension in your jaw. If you feel able to, slowly open your mouth slightly to release it, and gently close it again. Now focusing on letting go of the tension in your neck. Allow your belly to lead the breathing here and give your neck the permission to stay relaxed. Feeling into your shoulders, allow them to drop down. And again, to be free from forcing or pushing the breath. All they have to do is relax downward while your belly and lungs move your breath slowly in and out. With the intention of breathing with the movement of your belly, we're going to breathe to the count of three, feeling our bellies rise and fall. Imagine your breath is filling every part of you, down to the very tips of your toes. Inhale, one, two, three. Exhale, one, two, three. How much can you enjoy this deep belly breath? Inhale, one, two, three. Exhale, one, two, three. Take a few more breaths on your own. Savoring each one and feeling it relax you. All right, let's take one final deep breath together, breathing...


Duration8 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Eve is a mindfulness teacher, overseeing Headspace’s meditation curriculum. She is passionate about sharing meditation to help others feel less stressed and experience more compassion in their lives.

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  • As a meditation teacher, Dora encourages others to live, breathe, and be with the fullness of their experiences. She loves meditation’s power to create community and bring clarity to people’s minds.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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