Viva the Vagus

When I was a little girl, my mom insisted on hearing only good news. That left a whole pile of heartache constantly simmering for a kid who had multiple traumas before she was seven. Comfort came when my mother talked on the phone to her sister. I sat next to her, my weary head on her lap, as she reflexively played with my hair. Her long red nails gently lifting and releasing my soft curls lulled me into a rhythmic breathing pattern. I entered a dreamy zone between awake and asleep where a heavy ballast of warm calm pulled me deeper and deeper into a welcomed trance. I was finally safe. I prayed her call would never end.

Sixty years later, by accident, I discovered that feeling again. As I was working through some of those early traumas with my therapist (never too late to reclaim your inner childhood), I found my hand on my heart. I took a deep breath. My other hand knew what to do. It began at my wrist and with the lightest touch, the fingertips slowly stroked across the heart hand as I breathed out. I repeated this a few times, stopped, and felt a calm I hadn’t felt since those phone calls of long ago. I switched hands and with my other hand now on my heart, I slowly and gently stroked over it to the fingertips. 

Here’s the magical part. The hand on top felt like it wasn’t mine. It felt angelic, nurturing, maternal, wise, healing, and just what I needed to calm my vagus nerve. Just thinking about doing this exercise has the power to calm my system.

On our last trip to Vagus, we explored a technique called Breathing Fingers© that helps us and our students get our breath regulated and our mindfulness practice in gear. This one, called Viva the Vagus© is a heart soother with its bilateral healing touch. 

Watch the video and try it for yourself. Then teach it to your students and watch their faces relax as they learn to self-comfort and regulate their nervous systems. Viva the Vagus!

Here’s a review of Breathing Fingers:

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