The Vagus Nerve is a fascinating part of our anatomy, and could indeed be considered to be one of the single most important nerve within our entire system; but as we are aware it is impossible to consider anything as separate or individual when it comes to our perfectly beautifully designed physical Being!
The Vagus Nerve is so important as it directly connects our brain to our belly! Running from the brainstem, nr the Hypothalamus through our neck, around our heart, chest, diaphragm and into your intestines…this wandering nerve quite literally connects our mind body awareness; our gut instincts! The Vagus nerve connects our western view of anatomy with the more esoteric wisdom as it runs through the entire seven Chakra energy centres and Hara; as the ganglions of nerves branch out to all these energetic centres.
The Vagus nerve is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our relaxation response, in turn helping us to control the health of our immune cells, organs, tissues and even stem cells!
As we are able to function optimally as humans from a state of homeostasis, we need to be aware of our responses to stressors. If we are in a stressed out state, even mildly, which is a natural response to modern day anxieties, our equilibrium is challenged allowing stress hormones to increase, activating the sympathetic nervous system, sending us into a survival overdrive, creating the fight or flight state, effecting our breathing; making it shallow and rapid, our heart rate increases and digestion becomes impaired even creating irritable bowel syndrome and ultimately having an adverse effect upon the Vagus nerve.
The great news is we can effectively stimulate the Vagus nerve to bring ourselves back to a level of harmony, relaxed and at peace within ourselves emotionally, within our bodies and the world.
Our yoga practice is a natural pathway to homeostasis within our whole mind body dynamic as various yogic practices stimulate the Vagus nerve.
Modern medicine uses machinery to stimulate the Vagus nerve but as we are focused on health and well-being from a place of self-empowered action we can look at various yogic tools to help us.
Ways to activate the Vagus nerve:
Deep diaphragmatic breathing
Letting the mouth fill with saliva and allowing the tongue to rest and soak in it
Gently pressing the eyeballs, eyelids closed, with the palms of the hands
Washing the face with cold water, especially after exercise; bringing the body into an instant state of relaxation
Practicing inversions such as shoulder stand, half or supported shoulder stand and plough pose daily
Practicing Bhramari Pranayama, humming bee breath, with activates the palate, throat and ears; the pathway of the Vagus nerve
When properly stimulated the Vagal Nerve can benefit us by:
Helps the brain to emit new brain cells.
Instantly relaxes you by turning off stress.
Brings down inflammatory response in the body which is responsible for all disease.
Lowers blood pressure.
Promotes better sleep.
Keeps diabetes in control.
Raises levels of endorphins, relieving depression and anxiety.
Gives us the ability to be healthy, energetic, happy, compassionate; thus allowing us to enjoy our lives more.
The Vagus Nerve and Yoga
Regularly practising yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system by massaging the organs, relaxing the body, improving circulation and quietening the mind.
The first pose stimulates the Vagus nerve while pressing the abdomen up toward the spine, this is especially good for those with digestive issues. If you feel tenderness, do your best to relax and maintain a steady breath.
Fold the blanket to about an inch of thickness.
Roll the blanket up and place it off to the side.
Kneel on the mat, with your knees out directly in front of your hips, and your rump comfortably seated on your heels. If sitting on your heels feels uncomfortable, you can use a second blanket to add extra padding.
Set the rolled blanket on your lap and let it rest against your lower abdomen.
Inhale to lengthen your spine, and then exhale and fold forward over the blanket.
Try to reach far enough forward that your ribs are past the blanket.
Slowly walk your fingers forward, reaching your head down toward the mat.
If your blanket feels too thick, come out of the pose to roll it more tightly, and try again.
Stay in the pose as long as you like.
To exit the pose, use your hands to walk yourself back up to a seated position.