Friday, April 29, 2011

Brain Structure Changes After Meditation – Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve

Today’s world is about just as imbalanced as is possible when it comes to creating a centered existence.  The stresses of every day life for most Americans is off the charts.   Our society and our economy do not consistently provide or reinforce any of the basic physical or emotional human needs as defined by Maslow’s Hierarchy.    It does serve the needs of a corrupt and criminal class.  That is, power, greed and control.  It is easy to become uncentered in this environment.  We see that with rampant drug use, alcoholism, depression, obesity, crime, etc.  Most of these issues and more are a result of an uncentered self.  And while there are many aspects to the human condition, one of the most obvious inputs to creating these dynamics are the uncentered society and uncentered economy created by uncentered politicians, uncentered lobbyists and uncentered banksters. 

When there is little or no safety provided by shelter, family, economy, employment or health care  or when even physiological factors created by an uncentered society and economy such as lack of sleep, emotional stress or uncentered breathing, our body responds with high blood pressure, gastrointestinal illnesses, heart attacks, overeating, depression, emotional traumas of all sorts and on and on.   The list of maladies impacted by or even created by an uncentered society is endless.   Quite frankly, much of this is the drive behind volatility around the world.  When the average Egyptian is making $2 a day and Wall Street criminals are driving energy and food costs through the roof for personal profit and greed, something had to give.  And that was much of the impetus in the Middle East’s rampant uprisings.  The jack boot of tyranny became too great.  Hundreds of millions of people had and have absolutely nothing to lose.  

It isn’t just our banking system that is corrupt.  We need a new economic model that addresses the basic democratic needs of our citizens.  All citizens – one person, one vote.  And as part of that, we need to restore the lost sense of community that has been stolen from our society by corruption, power and greed.  Nothing is more stabilizing to the human condition than community.  It serves the basic human needs of acceptance, belonging, support and emotional satiety or oneness with our world.  

I have practiced meditation of one form or another for most of my adult life.  I’m not going to get into the epiphanies or ethereal experiences I have witnessed but make no mistake, meditation works.  And I have witnessed emotional and physical changes that science would classify as impossible.  Science is finally catching up to some of what people have known for thousands of years.    And link here.

Most people have no idea what it means to meditate or where to start.  The stereotypical picture is of a monk chanting to clear his mind of chatter.  While that works, I find it less than appealing for myself.  Everyone is different.  Active meditation is often easier for people to consider.  Active meditation involves doing something.  It could involve yoga, pilates or even walking.  The list is endless.  As long as you are able to control and focus your mind and breathing as part of the process. 

There is an easier method and I believe a more scientific method of meditation.  That is active breathing.   Studies done by people who do studies tells us the vast majority of people are mouth breathers and chest breathers.  Upwards of 90% if the statistics are true.  I suspect they are from anecdotal experience and because of the stress level of our society.  Shallow breathing is a natural stress response from the body.   Most people use very little of their lung capacity.  And they have no idea how to properly engage the diaphragm and to breathe properly.   Shallow breathing creates many crises in the body.  That includes muscle tension in rib cage muscles that can become permanent without release.   Thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where one literally cannot breathe deeply without engaging a massage therapist, rolfer, craniosacral therapist or whatever to release the restricted rib cage muscles.

As mentioned in the link above, science has measured substantial change in the human brain after a relatively short time period of mediation.  Using active breathing as a form of mediation is one of the choices I use because I know it scientifically has a profound impact on the body.  Amongst other factors, many of which are unknown, diaphragm and even belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve might as well be termed the nerve of life. 

Shallow breathing also impacts the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve is responsible for proper heart, lung, sexual, stomach, intestine and skeletal muscles to name some of its responsibilities.  The vagus nerve has been implicated in depression, heart attacks, epilepsy, stomach and intestinal disorders, eating disorders and improper sexual function and on and on.    In fact, science artificially stimulates the vagus nerve with implants to remedy many maladies.  We really don’t know all of the profound impacts the vagus nerve has on our psyche and our emotional and physical health but it is substantial.

Given that the vast majority of people are chest breathers or light breathers, one easy prescription for improved health is to stimulate your vagus nerve through meditative breathing. 

Two excellent sources and examples of meditative breathing techniques are here and here.    There are countless examples or you could create your own routine.  

If you are overstressed or find yourself being one who is a shallow breather, I would encourage you to do more research into meditation and active breathing in particular.   Who knows.  It may change your life or even save it. 


posted by TimingLogic at 10:47 AM