- Hum generously.
- Put your fingers either side of your windpipe and you should feel a vibration on both sides.
- If you can’t, there is a very strong possibility that you’ve poked your head forwards like a chicken.
- Relax the front of your throat into your neck to gently lengthen your neck. Relax your chin down a bit – think swan, not turkey.
- When you need to breathe in, breathe in through your nose, not your mouth.
- Tongue rests on the roof of the mouth, inside the top teeth – all of them.
- Strengthens the deep neck muscles – it’s a bit like using your own built in TENS machine: the vibration stimlates them back to life.
- The vibration also stimulates the Vagus Nerve, cranial nerve X, a calming nerve which connects to the Insular lobe of the brain.
- The vibration speeds up the thyroid, especially if the vibration is directed around the top of the windpipe.
- It encourages good posture by its positive effects on the brain stem.
- Humming encourages good breathing.
- It also encourages good tongue position – roof of mouth.
Migraines: Whilst there are many causes of migraines, in truth the three main causes lie in a tight occiput (round the base of the skull at the back), lack of movement in the joints of the cranium and in the insular lobe, the part of the brain that monitors everything going on inside us.
Hours spent working at a desk and/or in a highly stressed state causes us to lift the chin and slightly poke the head forwards. The head weighs about 5 kg and this amount of weight being held on to by the neck strains the superficial muscles at both the front and the back of the neck and turns off the deep neck muscles. As the tension in the superficial muscles builds, for many, this leads to bad headaches and eventually migraines with an additional piece of nastiness when vision breaks down.
We can pull our head back until it is resting over our shoulders by pulling it back – alas it will continue its forward migration unless we do additional stuff that addresses the deeper causes.
Level one is to learn how to hum very well. The stronger the vibrations felt on either side of the windpipe, the more effective the hum will be. And we can only get that degree of vibration when the head and neck are in a good position, without straining to get it back.
This will help unload those superficial muscles and help to relax the jaw. Then the rest of the spine can also start to regain its length – and overall posture starts to improve.
The previous blog on the insular lobe talked about its importance. It monitors everything going on inside us, and that information is carried by the vagus nerve. Since humming stimulates the vagus nerve, this will have a positive effect on the insular lobe, and as its function improves, then many internal problems like IBS, hormonal issues, wrong blood pressure, anxiety and so on start to improve.
Posture: The vagus nerve has its nucleus in the lowest part of the brainstem, the medulla, and when that is stimulated, it helps the low back to relax and the abs to turn on. As this happens, we stand less like Donald Duck and our abs magically flatten a bit.
Breathing: we should be able to hum for a long time before we need to breathe in again – this encourages the diaphragm to release upwards as we breathe out; long outbreaths are very relaxing. Also the pelvic floor should reflexively tighten up.
Aging: Then we inhale through the nose. Most breathing should be through the nose with the mouth shut. We are designed to breathe like this – it’s why our nose is lined with hairs. Only too often, the tongue sits on the floor of the mouth and we mouth breathe as a matter of course. This is incredibly aging – don’t do it! Nose breathing with a high tongue really helps prevent the formation of the multiple chin…. Come to that, humming with good vibrations is a good step to start avoiding the scraggly neck.
Also when we inhale well, the diaphragm goes down and the pelvic floor relaxes reflexively. Pelvic floor problems often stem from a pelvic floor that is too tight – just like any other muscle in the body, the pelvic floor needs to contract and relax and not be held as tight as possible for as long as possible; if you did this to a bicep, your shoulder would get very painful.
Finally as you hum, get that tongue resting on the roof of the mouth, inside the top teeth. Again, this stimulates the medulla, so helps tuck in the tum. It also makes you stronger – everything works better when the tongue is resting up high.
So, as I said, a ridiculously simple exercise with huge benefits.