NEEDS TO BE EDITED Week Six:  Preparation, Wrapping It Up & Taking the Next Step

I just returned from the annual symposium where one of the speakers (Rosalba Courtney, DO) talked about resonance frequency breathing. This is when our respiratory rate and heart rate synchronize to facilitate optimal sympathetic and parasympathetic balance. This is essentially heart rate variability where the greater the variability the better the homeostatic state of the system. This rate can be around 3-7 breaths/minute (not many modern humans fall within that range....)

During inhalation there is increased sympathetic tone/increased heart rate while during exhalation there is increased parasympathetic tone/slowing of heart rate. The variability (a good thing) comes from the differential between these. Therefore, we need BOTH for homeostasis. 

From a PRI perspective, one is generally stuck in an inhalation state with dampened diaphragm resonance as the diaphragm is not able to fully ascend (ZOA) for a full exhale to then be able to fully inhale. One is dependent on the other. Thus, by restoring diaphragm position and allowing full ascension and thus descension we are positively impacting HRV and thus both SNS and PNS tone. 

As we have learned from the Polyvagal Theory (Porges), it is through ANS balance that higher level emotional and cognitive (decision making) processes can more readily occur.

Heather Carr, DPT, NTP, PRC, OCS, MTC

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

Postural Restoration Certified
Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist 
Certified Manual Therapist


Review your journal/journaling over this course.

What was most important to you as you began this course?

What stands out in reading your journal? What do you hear in your own voice that speaks to you right now?

How have you begun to see yourself shift in new ways through tuning into your nervous system in your life?

Review these terms:

  • Hierarchy of Autonomic Nervous System

  • Vagal Brake

  • Regulation

  • Co-regulation

  • Social Engagement System


Reflection with practice partner:

Reflect on what your nervous system needs right now in this moment. Name and notice with your partner.

Share your main 1- 2 takeaways from this course.

(Optional) How does your system respond to this session ending? (You’ll have an opportunity to continue in Next Step, if you choose)


@2018, Charlotte Nuessle

Practices for Shifting Your Nervous System

Three resources support you in tuning into your nervous system and reshaping it. These are "bread and butter" - you need them to have a solid base to your practice. They help you build a foundation to shift your nervous system: self-awareness, self-caring and kindness.

Listed below are commonly recognized practices that shift the nervous system and bring awareness to primary needs as social creatures. Notice how growing awareness supports making shifts in your nervous system toward becoming more flexible and responsive.

Reflect on how in your daily practices in this course, you've explored some of these different elements.

Explore what you resonate with, how and where you can continue to breathe life into your practices and pick up a little wind in your sails. 

Short List of Practices:

  • Movement
  • Breath
  • Touch
  • Voice/Sound
  • Eye contact
  • Co-regulation
  • Strengthen mental resources for happiness and ease

Ways to Practice Shifting the Nervous System

and bring awareness to elements of social connection....


1. Movement

Moving the body shapes the nervous system. There’s endless ways to move! Yoga, adapted appropriately, has been shown to lower cortisol, a stress hormone. Cardio exercise supports healthy heart functioning. Flowing movements, like chi qong, increase energy flows. Taking walks in nature nurtures a sense of connection. Dance is a form of expression. Sports is a way to play with others.

Move with awareness - present centered - over and over. The gift of being present is that we use the practice of movement to cultivate our mind’s attention. We relieve mental suffering when we strengthen our capacity to be present, direct our attention where we want it to go rather than following well-worn patterns like worry and self-doubt.

Bonus learning for this course

Focusing on the breath is a resource available in each moment. In the practices of this course, learn how to incorporate breath with movement and apply that in your movement practices.

2. Breath

Breath can help you settle, steady your mind, and relax your body. Dedicating several minutes to explore gently deeper than normal breathing, aware of breathing, relaxed and full, is a simple tool to shift the mind into more balanced awareness.

After shifting the nervous system through some movement practice it is much easier to turn attention to the breath.


Bring your awareness to the sensations you experience in your body. The body’s sensations are present centered.


Once you’re settled and can notice body sensation - like the support of the chair under your legs - bring attention to your breathing.

This practice seems simple but actually, continuing to bring kindness and warmth to yourself as you turn your attention inward, is a huge practice for all of us.

See if you can gently deepen your breath. Focusing on the exhale calms the system.

See if you can keep the exhale as long as or gently longer than the inhale. Remember to breathe with kindness and never force your breath.

Learning for this course

Know from your own experience, how breath shifts the nervous system.

3. Touch

Petting a dog or cat, extending a handshake, sharing a hug with someone you feel safe and connected with, massaging the stress away from your temples - these are examples of how touch can shift your nervous system toward feeling safely connected.

Consider self-massage using oil, like Abhyanga from the Ayurvedic tradition.

Learning for this course

Explore one or more of the practices that incorporate touch. Notice how your system responds.

Consider the ways you enjoy giving and receiving touch. Find a way to bring conscious, considerate, caring touch into your life.

4. Sound

Sound is another activator of our Social Engagement system, how we as mammals look for cues of safety with others.

Listening to a lullaby, hearing someone tell a story, enjoying music, singing with others or chanting Om are some examples.

Explore how voice is a way to extend messages of safety and connection to others.

Learning for this course

Discover new ways and revive familiar ways you relate to sound and music. Listen to a piece of music while being self-aware, tracking your breath, your inner experience. Observe the shifts that happen in your nervous system as you listen.

Check out a practice of sound, or of singing, in the course. Be kind to yourself. No “shoulds” or “have to.” No right or wrong. Just like a scientist, “hmm, this is interesting.” See if you can get curious about it.

5. Eyes

The give and take of being seen and seeing others is so important to us all. It is primal. When a young baby can’t read the expression on her caregiver’s face, the infant becomes very distressed.

The eyes communicate that we are safe. It’s how we know each other.

Learning for this course

Practice the eye exercises. In our modern times we use and overuse our eyes in routine ways. Explore other ways to engage with your eyes, as an act of self-awareness, self-caring, and kindness.

6. Co-regulate

In addition to how we learn to manage our own system’s needs, we turn to each other for being met.

Each of our systems were shaped uniquely. We were wired with an imprint even before life began. Then we were shaped by how our caregivers related to us. How our needs were met. Or not.

We have different needs from each other. It’s a journey to discover whether we enjoy spending more time with others, need more quiet time because our system gets overloaded, how we enjoy connecting with others - on walks, in book discussion groups or one on one.

Learning for this course:

Utilize the time in our group and with your practice partner to consider your needs around connecting with others.

It can be that when our needs for connection haven’t been met, we minimize them, telling ourselves things like we don’t really need to connect with others.

As profoundly social beings, we all need connection, safe connection with others.

Consider how this understanding can shape new choices in your life. Try on a new way of connecting. Notice your experience. Be kind to yourself.

This is a journey of discovering, not a goal to arrive at, not one size fits all. Make more space for what’s true for you.


7.  Strengthen Mental Resources

Check out this Taking in the Good practice, another gift to give yourself, moments at a time.

Taking in the Good

Dr. Rick Hanson offers a very user friendly model called Taking in the Good. It’s a model of how to accelerate your brain’s potential (and thus your mind’s potential) for learning. It’s a simple meditation and awareness practice that you can apply to places of personal development where you might have experienced something that was difficult for your nervous system, or younger times when your needs were not met, for example.

The first part of this model is to recognize the very many good things all around us in this very moment. Though neither you or I live in a perfect world we have many opportunities to experience beauty, caring, friendship, creativity, acting on our own behalf, and happiness, each day in countless ways.


Negativity Bias

Throughout evolution the brain had to prioritize learning from bad things that happen. If your ancestors missed a cue, for example the sound of someone approaching, s/he would not have survived to pass on their genes. 

If their brain didn’t learn quickly, then you and I wouldn’t be here now.

The brain evolved to overfocus on the negative and pretty much skip over the positive. There will be another chance to smell the roses but not if you become someone’s lunch!

Learning for this course:

To help balance this tendency, practice becoming aware of the good or neutral things in your day. The warmth of the covers on your bed. The kindness in the eyes of the grocery clerk. Simple everyday things.

Instead of just letting that goodness slip through your fingers, “what’s the big deal?”, take it in. Let your body feel that goodness, let yourself absorb it. Let it become part of you. Stay with it for a few seconds at a time so that it registers in your memory.

You’re giving your brain the signal, “Pay attention to this. This is good!”

Stay with the good and let the good feelings linger. Practice this in small ways all day long.

Jump on for my short course to deepen your understanding.


Journal, share, ask questions, reflect, be curious, do something new. Give yourself this time to explore.

Make space for who you are and who you are becoming! Share your light with us.


@2018, Charlotte Nuessle


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