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Safety & Connection Breath

October 13, 2020



    It turns out a breath delivers more than oxygen. The way one breathes can alter one's physiology, by choice or not. The simple exhale in this process can result in calmness and a sense of safety found in connection with others. As an introvert and highly sensitive, learning about the Polyvagal Theory, and this breath enhanced my life.

Video Transcript

Hi Everyone. Kris here. Today's 'for 5' is called "Safety & Connection Breath." I will describe a breathing exercise to use whenever and wherever you want to feel safe, calm, and connected with others. In its extreme and used by experts in their fields, it has helped survivors of long-term traumatic events re-enter into a healthy life.

I would love to ramble on about the PolyVagal Theory (PVT); instead, for the sake of time, I will refer you books by Steven Porges for a technical read and Deb Dana for a smoother, more practical read. This particular breathing pattern comes more directly from the field of Somatic Experiencing and experts such as Dr. Peter Levine.

The vagus nerve connects to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. Singing, humming, and chanting activate these muscles, stimulating your vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is complex, organized into three branches, and the subject of much research these days. One of these branches, the Ventral Vagal Nerve, is part of the parasympathetic system and is activated or stimulated when you feel safe and connected socially. Reversely, one can activate it by the breath to change one's internal state to a state of feeling okay, secure, and connected with others.

Here is how it goes. First, notice when you might have a little concern or fear going. Take a normal inhale or inhale a little more breath than you usually would.

Then as you exhale, release your breath slowly while looking down and say the word 'Vu' softly while making the sound of a distant foghorn in the back of your throat. As you exhale, change the Vu to Ohm.

It will sound and look like this. VUVUUUVUUU —Ooooohhhmmmm

One or two of these breaths will be all it takes to return to being neutral and calm and be capable of relational presence.

Explore using this breath. Try it the next time you feel adrenaline, emotionally tweaked, fearful, or any other intensely negative emotion. You will likely find a way to do this without others noticing. Modify it in each situation you find yourself. You can even do it soundlessly in your mind, and it is still effective.

This breathwork is a form of self-regulation, that is your ability to monitor and manage your energy state, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in acceptable ways that produce positive results for learning, well-being, and loving relationships. It might be fun and useful to teach it your child or children.

Self-regulation tends to regulate those around you. Or, it causes those around you to self-regulate themselves.

I encourage you to explore how self-regulation impacts those around you. Experimenting with the breath can be rather fun. I once did this safety and connection breath in a packed restaurant, where I had to practically yell to be heard by the person sitting across from me. At the end of two long exhales, I swear everyone chilled out, and the room's sound level dropped a few decibels.

So that's it. Have fun with it.