1. The Breath: Your Superpower
The breath is a miracle. It is there for us from our first moment in the world and throughout our lives until we die. The breath is intelligent and sophisticated.
Each time we INHALE our SYMPATHETIC nervous system is activated.
This is what I call the “right, let’s do this” part of the nervous system.
At it’s extreme this is our fight or flight mechanism, designed to help us run as far away as possible in a life threatening situation.
And each time we EXHALE our PARASYMPATHETIC nervous system is activated.
This is what I call the “right let’s calm this whole thing down” part of the nervous system.
It sends a message to our bodies to rest and digest, a kind of signal to our whole body that it’s safe to slow down. What this means is that with every breath in and out, our body goes through the natural cycle of both energising and relaxing us. Genius.
This is why in every Train Body Brain Class we are constantly connecting to the breat, whether doing burpees and mountain climbers, or meditating in child's pose.
2. Deep Sigh
A deep sigh is the human body's equivalent to pressing refresh on your computer or phone. When we sigh it’s the body-brain's way not only of releasing tension but of resetting your whole nervous system.
Scientific studies show that a deep sigh returns the autonomic nervous system from the over-active, sympathetic state to the more calm and balanced parasympathetic state.
At the beginning of every Train Body Brain class we do a collective group sigh during the arrival meditation. Then we set an intention for the next hour’s class. Essentially, we start working with the nervous system and the brain before we’ve even started on the jumping jacks!
3. Touch is Everything - Hug Yourself!
Our nervous system loves nothing more than warm, safe touch. Touch activates the release of oxytocin, the 'friend' hormone. Oxytocin is a super heroine hormone. It’s the brain’s bodyguard for fending off cortisol, which is the stress hormone we read so much about.
Being with others is vital to our survival; the brain-body has a social engagement requirement. Humans are naturally social animals and oxytocin is just one of a whole host of neurochemicals that make up this system. Nature provided us with this hormonal system to ensure that we as humans continue to reach out to other humans. That is why touch triggers a very real and primal sense of reassurance in us.
In Train Body Brain classes, at the end of the arrival meditation we offer up to ourselves a selfie hug. Even if there's no one else around to give you a cuddle, hugging ourselves stimulates the vagus nerve which triggers an increase in oxytocin levels. That is a straight-up example of how important self-love can be.
4. Put your Hand on your Heart
Another quick way to get your Oxytocin Oxygen Mask on is to place your hand over your heart and breathe gently. Research has shown that doing this soothes your mind and body and can activate the release of oxytocin, making us feel safe.
We do an exercise at the end of every Train Body Brain class that you can very easily practice at home.
Place one hand onto your heart. Breathe into your heart centre and, if it works for you, imagine inhaling calm or safety into this place in your body.
Next, bring to mind a moment when you felt safe and loved by another human being, or even a pet! Do not get caught up in the story of that moment, just recall how it made you feel.
Now try to stay with those feelings as you continue to breathe into your heart centre.
Try this exercise whenever you next feel upset or uneasy. At first, try and practice it as often as possible each day - this strengthens the neural circuity of your brain and encourages your neural pathways to remember the pattern - a kind of brain muscle memory for making you feel safe whenever you need it.
This kind of exercise puts you in charge of how you feel, and enables you to get out of a difficult emotional reaction before it hijacks you.
5. Move your Body to Move your Life
Train Body Brain Instructors can often be heard shouting “MOVEMENT IN YOUR BODY CREATES MOVEMENT IN YOUR LIFE!” during the cardio and strength sections of class. This final part of the blog explains why!
In a nutshell, anytime you move your body, in any way at all, you shift your physiology. In turn, this shifts the activity of your nervous system. By moving our bodies we can control, shift and change our emotions and our mood.
Research has shown that when you are feeling nervous or fearful, if you take a pose that expresses the opposite of that feeling, it will automatically make you feel more confident. For example, if you are feeling fearful, let your body move into a posture that expresses the emotional state you want to feel instead of the fearful feeling you don't want to feel.
Stand in front of the mirror in a super man pose; plant your feet wide, put one fist on your hip and the other punching up towards the sky!
It might feel silly, but this can help you put yourself in the driver's seat of how you want to feel.
Hopefully after reading this blog you will be better equipped to be an invincible powerhouse and master of your nervous system!