Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Meditation: Go to the Well, daily!
Maureen Mason-Cover, PT, WCS                                       

Got Vagus? Vagus as in the mind-body-nerve connection, not Las Vegas!  When you think of taking a break, and relaxing, do you think of Las Vegas? Las Vegas is oriented for action, adventure, or in the case of the hangover movies, partying until injury and mayhem set in. Yet this is where many people go to relax. What about a place you can go to that is refreshing, and involves no travel or spending? Sort of an antidote to Vegas.

At CTS we have a new mind-body relaxation, stress management, and meditation teacher on board, and he is training a small group of us in several skills, or practices, for shifting our attention towards mindfulness and calming. Just think of it as visiting a refreshing well! Jim Cahill is teaching us to be able to “turn the dial” from our busy cognitive brain activity, which is danger and worry focused, to a place of calmness, breath awareness, control and creative visualization.  Our group shares our varied experiences, as we like, in the form of a brief chat at the group start, or we don’t share-perhaps if we have been too busy, or too stressed, to practice! We are an imperfect group of 8, with many distractions, life issues from young to old, and we have had a laugh at our occasional “non compliance” with our self-study as a home practice. This may seem ridiculous as most attendees are therapists and we expect regular compliance with programs that we provide for our patients. However, cultivation of new habits, such as exercise, or mind-body stress management and relaxation, require habit change, and a space and time for the new behavior to take place. Habit change also requires coaching with a trainer or teacher.
The Vagus nerve, cranial nerve 10, works with many other nerves and systems to help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and digestive functioning. The Vagus nerve is part of the autonomic (think automatic) nervous system. The autonomic nervous system functions are complex, and may place us on alert, as in driving us into fight or flight, the “stress response”, to flee danger or fight against a threat. The autonomic system has a relaxation mode, which should activate after a threat is no longer present. With chronic stress, the “on switch” is chronically activated and individuals suffer ill health with many conditions and symptoms. The fight or flight response is mediated by the sympathetic side of the autonomic system. The parasympathetic side, which is activated when we feel safe and at peace, involves the Vagus nerve, which allows valves to open for digestion, and heart rate and blood pressure to lower. Studies have shown that relaxation training, and specifically calming techniques that can lower the heart rate and therefore activate the Vagus nerve, can help in many medical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, and depression.

Got vagus? Learn to activate the refreshing, mind-body calming method of mindful meditation for your health, wellness, and peace.

Please check out for more information about mindful meditation throughout Comprehensive Therapy Services.