Reasons to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is the longest of the nerves in our body and responsible for communication between the brain, heart and digestive organs. The nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, and critical for our state of relaxation.
Vagus nerve functions
This long, wandering nerve send signals to and from the brain to a variety of organs, impacting many body functions which include:
regulating heart rate, blood pressure, breathing
modulating mood, especially fear and anxiety
digestion (central to the gut-brain connection)
supporting the immune system
The vagus nerve is an essential part of the sympathetic nervous system, bringing us from "fight or flight' in to a state of "rest and digest".
When we can calm the nervous system we get the benefits of lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation, regulated blood sugar, improved sleep, and a sense of calm.
Yin and yang of the nervous system
The notion of yin and yang are a centerpiece of Chinese Medicine. There is a little piece of each energetic force in the other, and as one energy changes, the other will adjust. Our nervous system works in much of the same way, with the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems counterbalancing our body's responses.
Involves action and movement
Most active during the day
Relates to the sympathetic nervous system.
Yin is restful, still, restoring
Predominant at nighttime
Mirrors the parasympathetic nervous system.
The theory of yin and yang provides a framework for identifying illness which can occur when the elements are not evenly balanced. This is similar to how disease can occur with one aspect of the nervous system being overactive. Acupuncture is one method used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help maintain the balance of rest and activity, sleep and wakefulness, stress and calm.
Stimulate the vagus nerve
When we experience constant stress there is a heavy toll on the body with a wide range of effects including sleep disturbances, digestive upset, headaches, poor concentration, weight gain, anxiety, depression. Here are some easy ways to help calm your body.
Deep slow breathing is one of the most effective ways to stimulate your vagus nerve to move your body out of "fight or flight" mode. Calming the nervous system brings us into it's relaxed parasympathetic state.
Other ways to engage the vagus nerve: meditation, being compassionate, yoga, mindfulness, laughter, singing, a sense of belonging
4-7-8 breathing technique
Try this breathing technique to help you drift off to sleep or reduce anxiety.
The steps listed should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath. You can began with a cycle of 4 breaths and build up to 8.
First, exhale completely through your mouth.
Next, close your lips, inhaling through your nose as you count to four.
Then, for 7 seconds, hold your breath.
Make a whooshing exhale from your mouth for 8 seconds.