In recent years there has been an increase in our general awareness of the potential for improving our individual well-being by interacting directly with the functioning of our natural, internal self-regulating systems.
The benefits that can be experienced by improving the efficiency and coordination of our breathing are well understood and ever more available to the general population, as online demonstrations proliferate – I have posted a couple of Awareness Through Movement Potent Breath videos myself. Not only do we have a few thousand years of breathing practice strategies to draw on, but now we also have a much better scientific framework for understanding why techniques such as chanting can be so effective for lowering chronic arousal in our autonomic nervous system, and this is thanks to ground-breaking research into the vagal “social engagement” nervous system undertaken by Dr Stephen Porges.
Although Porges’ research into the vital importance of healthy social engagement to our wellbeing as a species is referred to as “The Polyvagal Theory”, it is clear that several other cranial nerves are also involved in maintaining this aspect of our healthy functioning as individuals, so the full list of cranial nerves discussed in the book includes the 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th (that one’s the Vagus) and the 11th (V, VII, IX, X, and XI).* These nerves are in charge of the muscles of our jaw (in chewing and communicating), our middle ear, our face (lips, cheeks, eye lids and brows etc), larynx and pharynx (so tongue, soft palate, and internal sphincters), and the rotation of the head – all this in addition to the enormous range of the vagus, managing the organs above and below the diaphragm.
As a teacher with a particular interest in both the voice and the reversal of chronic health conditions you can imagine how delighted I was to discover just how deeply my two main areas of interest were connected within this one vast field of research.
Just to realise how important it is to both extend the out-breath and listen intently was a wonderful vindication of the benefits of singing for individuals, not just for choirs – which is where most of the research has been done and is thus the foundation for all those “singing is good for your health” articles.
In my workshop tomorrow (details below) I will be focussing both our external and our internal sensory-motor awareness on these structures, and we will also be discovering and refining some gentle and highly beneficial self-massaging techniques. This afternoon will work well in tandem with the daily breathing lesson series coming up in February, and this material is part of my “quintessential Feldenkrais” system, which is also available in my regular Inner Voice classes on Wednesday evenings. My central goal is to enable those who work with me to develop a confident and reliable self-help-and-healing practice, based squarely on the enhanced learning strategies central to the Feldenkrais Method. As always there will be recordings and written notes to support your ongoing practice.
Face, Lips, Jaw & Neck
Focus on Vagal & Trigeminal Nerve Functions
*Contact me if you are interested in this workshop, or join my mailing list for regular updates…
This workshop will be of particular interest to:
Anyone experiencing discomfort or tension in the neck, jaw or throat
Anyone wishing to improve their ability to reach a state of deep relaxation
Anyone wishing to improve functions such as breathing, chewing, and vocal articulation
Anyone interested in improving the carriage of their head
Anyone interested in enlivening their facial expression
You can use my contact form to make your booking, or email me via FaceBook – here is a link to my main work page. Do not hesitate to contact me for more information, or to go on my mailing list, and please note that this workshop is one of my regular themes and do connect with me if you would like to know when the next one is scheduled.
*As a Feldenkrais teacher it is impossible not to register how neatly this list sidesteps the one cranial nerve that Moshe Feldenkrais specifically highlighted thanks to its involvement in our sense of balance, ie the 8th (VIII) or ‘vestibulocochlear’ nerve! This element of our self-regulation may explain the tendency of those experiencing states of high anxiety – whether acute or chronic – to employ rhythmic rocking motions. This is true of both children and adults. This is a fascinating topic I will leave for a later post.