6-3-9 Meditation: Relaxing the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Jun 05, 2021

The 6-3-9 Meditation practice is a simple practice that utilizes the breath as a focal point for our attention. In this practice, we simply breathe in, hold our breath, and exhale, releasing the breath—and we do so in a ratio of 6-3-9.

So, we breathe in for a count of 6 seconds, hold our breath for a count of 3 seconds, and exhale for a count of 9 seconds.

This retention of the breath for 3 seconds, and the following 9 second exhalation, helps to relax our parasympathetic nervous system. Whenever we exhale for longer than we inhale, we stimulate the vagus nerve, which is a very large nerve, originating in the brainstem, and extending down the body, to the heart, the lungs, and the digestive system.

The nervous system is divided into two parts, the Central Nervous System (CNS), and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).  The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, the PNS consists of the many nerves that spread throughout the body and send messages to and from the CNS.

The PNS itself is divided into two subdivisions, the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is further divided into two subdivisions, the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic division initiates the fight-or-flight response and the parasympathetic initiates the rest-and-digest response. In other words, the sympathetic nervous system helps us initiate action, while the parasympathetic nervous system helps us relax and restore.

This breathing practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, and helps us relax and restore. It does this by directly influencing the vagus nerve, which is the largest nerve associated wth the parasympathetic nervous system. The practice also helps us focus our awareness on the present moment by synchronizing our attention with our breathing.

To Practice:

  • Sit in a comfortable position, with your spine straight and body relaxed.
  • Practice with your eyes open or closed.
  • Focus your attention on your breathing.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply while silently counting to 6.
  • Once you have inhaled, retain your breath for a count of 3 seconds.
  • Exhale a long and slow breath out for a count of 9 seconds.
  • Repeat this for at least 9 times (or longer if you’d like) and allow yourself to relax and let go of tension with each and every exhalation.
  • Allow yourself to ease into a state of calm, relaxation, and clarity.

 If you'd like to learn more about meditation, check out our Introduction to Meditation course.






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