The Art of Noisemaking: Hacking the Parasympathetic Nervous System
At your best, you are sound.
We share a lot of playlists filled with intentionally good feeling music here on Ritual+Vibe. One of the reasons why is because music is a healing art. Listening to certain types of music helps improve your connection to your own frequency. Bobby Hemmitt talks a bit about the healing aspect of music in this clip.
But, the music you make can be the most healing & enriching ritual of them all.
The Sacral + Throat Connection
To me, it’s no coincidence that the sacrum and the vocal chords make the same, crude, upside down triangle shape. There is a definite connection between the sacral region and the throat.
The sacrum bones sit near the base of the lumbar vertebrae, at the seat of your spine. It’s strength supports the weight of the upper body, and it intersects with the hip bone to give stability to the pelvic bone. The sacral plexus is a collection of nerves that provides motor & sensory function to the lower body. This means the “sacral chakra” (if you are into separating the body this way) is also very active in rootwork and grounding yourself.
If you look at the etymology of the word sacral, you are led to the word sacred or holy. Holy, very specifically, means safe and sound. Sound, not only means to vibrate or make noise, it also means to be whole, healthy, and strong. So, both the sacral area and the throat are responsible for being sound - whether literally for the throat or figuratively for the sacral.
Going back into chakras, the sacral and throat chakras can also represent the opposite ends of the same energy - creation. The sacral chakra is the home of conception, birth, and dancing. The throat is where you express yourself and sing songs from the heart. You share from both places. You give breath to new life from both places.
These two unseemingly connected energy points of the body have a lot in common. And there is even another thread that connects them. The vagus nerve.
The Wanderer’s Song
The nature of this year is chaotic, but some of this chaos is organized chaos scripted to entice fear. Some of the things we are consuming right now are actively causing the fight-or-flight part of our nervous system to be overactive. This makes our nervous system and overall body out of balance. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a simple ritual with the vagus nerve, throat, and sacral to help keep me grounded, centered, and whole - not stuck in fight or flight. But before I discuss the ritual, here’s a little more background on the vagus nerve.
In the body, the sacral and the throat are connected by the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve in the autonomic nervous system and sends electric info to all organs from the neck down to the colon (excluding the adrenal glands.) It’s responsible for functions like heart rate, speech, sweating. The vagus nerve also helps control or reduce inflammation, and may even help improve memory.
The vagus nerve is the driver behind the parasympathetic nervous system aka the rest & digest part of the nervous system. If your body is in constant fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system), you will not experience homeostasis in your body. The parasympathetic system and the vagus nerve, in turn, help to bring harmony to the body.
Vagus etymologically means wanderer. Wander comes from the Proto-Indi-Euro root *wendh- that means "to wind” or “to weave". Much like we use our hips to weave stories through dance. Much like we use our voice to weave stories through song. The vagus nerve, the electric weaver, is very important to many different functions in the body, including the throat and sacral.
This is an important etymological connection, because wandering, and weaving, and turning are the beginning stages of change. Right now, we are in a time of constant change and necessary upheaval. We can use our vagus nerve to help us navigate these times, and properly prepare for change. One very simple way to do this on a personal level is to stimulate & soothe this electric weaver by humming.
Cats use purring as a low energy mechanism to stimulate muscles and regenerate bones. The bones respond by repairing from the pressure of the low frequency purrs. When hyenas get together for a hunt, they begin to “low” - a low frequency growl or moo used to form an alliance against animals much larger than them. Lowing ensures the whole pack is present & in the same state of arousal & social excitement.
Whether in a resting mode like the cat, or in an excited mode like the hyena, we too can get the benefit of intentional low frequencies when humming in a low growl.
Humming is our natural instrument that keeps us sound/healthy, grounded, and present. It stimulates and soothes the vagus to help calm the nervous system.
To complete the ritual, all you need is a space to sit or lie down. I love doing this both outside on a mat and in my bedroom.
- Lay down on the ground facing the sky or sit on the ground. Get comfortable. Prep the ritual how you see appropriate.
- Begin breathing deep in your belly through the nose. Breathe deep, deep, deep so your belly expands. If you’d like, you can focus energy in your sacral area. Close your eyes if you’d like, but you do not have to.
- Hum, growl, or make a low noise that comes to you. You may feel a soft vibration all over the body. Make the sound as soft or as loud or vary between volumes. Try to hum or growl so deep, that you feel it in your sacral area.
I do this until there is a still calmness all over my body. If there was any pain, it begins to soften. It doesn’t go away, but it is bearable, workable, fixable. Nonphysical stress melts in the same fashion. It doesn’t disappear, but it is reimagined - digestible, workable, transmutable.
Here are some other ways to stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Deep Diaphram Breathing: Breathe deep into your stomach. Your belly should expand, and your chest should stay relatively still when you breathe from the diaphragm.
- Social Connection: Find ways to safely connect socially. Going to the park and beach, while still respecting logical laws of your area (if you want to avoid unnecessary jail time & monetary support of the prison system) are great ways to still be social while in quarantine. A cute picnic brunch with the girls, or a family run at the beach, or a walk around the neighborhood with your neighbor are great outdoor activities. Respecting folks distance has always been a general rule of thumb.
- Quality Physical Movement: Run, jump rope, dance! Get MOVING!
- Get your magnesium. Magnesium is required for over 300 bodily functions. You can supplement with topical magnesium like magnesium oil spray or a magnesium bath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for keeping you relaxed - I discuss this more in this article.
Other Ways to Use Our Noise
While on a personal level, tapping into lower frequency noises on a weekly or regular basis has helped me strengthen and sharpen.
On a wider scale, we can also start adopting deeper voices in general when talking to people. Women and even some men are encouraged to infantilize themselves because that is seem as more feminine. A soft, mousy, whiny, or baby talk voice is not associated with femininity despite what you see pushed in media. That is associated with childishness. Remember, we ALL get deeper voices when we grow up. All of our vocal cords were lengthen and thickened during puberty. Even though males usually experience more growth of the larynx, please remember that the deepening of the voice is what happens to both males & females during maturation. Avoid the “yung baby” aesthetic by talking at your normal pitch.
To help with this, breathe properly by activating your diaphragm when you breathe. Swallow before you begin to speak, and instead of producing a nasally sound by speaking through your nose, speak through your chest and mouth instead. Pull up energy from your sacral and root areas as well for even more rooted bass. To help find your natural pitch, you can hum again, but this time change the pitch. Find the pitch that sounds the loudest without straining.
On the largest level, we should continue to use our noise to call injustice out by it’s name. The patriarchy wants silent, meek, modesty. Use your noises, low and strong, to reclaim what is yours. The etymology of reclaim means to shout. We have got to make more intentional noise, geared towards shattering glass ceilings and boxes.
Try some of these tips & let me know how your mood, energy, body, and nerves feel!