Sometimes all it takes is a tiny change (and two minutes) to boost your happiness. In Happiness Toolkit, a series leading up to YJ LIVE New York, April 21-24, presenter Bo Forbes offers a taste of her upcoming sessions with simple, science-backed tools to find your joy. (Sign up here to practice with her in person.)
Eye pillows have a reputation for being the new age version of snake oil: a little bit of flax, and a lot of money. Yet they may be one of our most powerful healing tools, especially when it comes to a balanced nervous system. Your vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves that originates in the brain, travels down the back of the neck and into the chest and heart, and then moves down into the abdomen and digestive tract.
Light pressure on the eyeballs lowers heart rate, sometimes by quite a bit, by eliciting what’s called the oculocardiac reflex. It also stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve has an extensive resume: It regulates heart rate and digestion, and it’s the primary medium through which our belly brain regulates mood. It’s the main communicator to our rest-and-digest system, which helps us to relax more deeply. It also elicits our tend-and-befriend system, enabling us to reach out and connect with others. This is a critical factor in long-term stress resilience and, research shows, in happiness.
One quick way to stimulate your vagus nerve is through this abdominal massage. Another is to use eye pillows, which place light pressure on the eyeballs.
When to use an eye pillow:
- Put one over your eyes or on your forehead when you lay down to sleep. This will help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep throughout the night.
- Use one at the end of your yoga practice during savasana for ultra relaxation.
- Pair it with your restorative yoga practice to deepen embodiment. (Also try my two restorative poses to combat effects of anxiety and depression.)
- Anytime you feel anxious, depressed, or stressed and can use a quick pick-me-up or more grounding.
ADD TO YOUR HAPPINESS TOOLKIT
Belly Breathing Meditation to Build Boundaries
A Simple Belly Massage to Stoke Health, Happiness, and Digestion
5 Mindfulness Practices to Rewire Your Brain and Improve Health
2 Restorative Poses That Will Change the Course of Your Day
Register now for Forbes’s YJ LIVE! San Diego workshops, June 24-27, including Cultivating Happiness, Body Maps, The Connective Tissue Matrix, and Yoga, Creativity, and the Body.
ABOUT BO FORBES
Bo Forbes is a clinical psychologist, a yoga teacher and an integrative yoga therapist whose background includes training in biopsychology, behavioral medicine, sleep disorders and stress management. She is the founder of Integrative Yoga Therapeutics, a system that specializes in the therapeutic application of yoga for anxiety, insomnia, depression, immune disorders, chronic pain, physical injuries and athletic performance. Bo conducts teacher trainings and workshops internationally, writes frequently for Yoga Journal, Body + Soul, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and other leading magazines, and is on the advisory board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and the Give Back Yoga Foundation. She is part of a research collaborative that investigates the contemplative practice of yoga, and will participate in the Mind and Life Institute’s Summer Research Institute this year. She is also the author of Yoga for Emotional Balance: Simple Practices to Relieve Anxiety and Depression. Learn more at boforbes.com and via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.