How To Take Care of Your Vagus Nerve

Maybe you’re wondering — what the heck is the vagus nerve and why should I take care of it? Or perhaps you’ve heard that the vagus nerve is vitally important to your health, and you want to know how to keep it working well. Either way, I’ve got you covered.

Vagus Nerve Basics

  • The vagus nerve is actually two nerves (right and left vagus nerves) that are generally referred to as one.
  • It is the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system, running from brain to large intestine.
  • It is a key player in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) because it is involved with digestion, breathing, heart rate, cardiovascular functions, and reflexes.

So what?

The Vagus Nerve is the Key to Stress Relief! (and so much more…)

The PNS is the part of our nervous system that helps us relax — and I think it’s safe to say that most Westernized people are “stressed out” and A) trying to find ways to relax, or B) way too busy to even know how to relax. Either way, tuning up the vagus nerve helps. A healthy vagus nerve helps you better cope with stress, and when you decrease stress you increase resiliency and vitality. Reducing stress also reduces inflammation, which leads to better overall health.

The vagus nerve is also plays a role in digestion. When your digestive system is working well, your body gains the nourishment it needs from food and easily eliminates what it doesn’t need. Taking care of the vagus nerve may help improve your digestion, and thus your overall health. And, research shows that a healthy gut is connected with a healthy mind (e.g. less anxiety and depression).

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some other benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve include:

  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Treat depression (including treatment-resistant depression, per VeryWellHealth).
  • Regulate your emotions.
  • Lower your heart rate.
  • Treat migraines and cluster headaches.
  • Minimize seizures in those with epilepsy.

So, it is pretty clear that taking care of your vagus nerve is not only beneficial, but essential.

(See the link to the vagus nerve articles at the bottom of this post.)

Tuning Up the Vagus Nerve

There are many ways to tune up the vagus nerve, including the simple act of gargling. Some of the top tools to stimulate the vagus nerve and unlock the hold stress has on us include:

breath work
and cold exposure therapy

Umm, hello!? These are all part of Wholehearted Yoga!* I had no idea when I took my first kundalini yoga class six years ago that it would heal me from the inside out. Or maybe it was from the outside in. Either way, it worked. And now I know why—it has worked wonders on my vagus nerve! Looking back, I imagine that my vagus nerve must have been like a frayed rope ready to snap after so many years of chronic stress. Now, that rope is more like a steel cable capable of swinging me out of severe stress into peaceful calm in just moments. And, my overall health is better than ever, so thank you vagus nerve!

One-Minute Vagus Nerve Tune Up

The simplest tool you can use to tune up your vagus nerve, starting right this second, is Balloon Breathing. Inhale through the nose into your belly so it expands like a big balloon (you can watch it, or put your hand(s) on it if that helps). Exhale completely (through nose or mouth) so your belly button feels like it could touch your spine. Repeat 3-5 times. That’s it! A quick, one-minute tune up for your vagus nerve. For even greater benefit, do this one-minute tune up a few times a day and/or build up your Balloon Breathing practice to 3-5 minutes.

If you want to go beyond the one-minute tune up, please join my Wholehearted Yoga sessions or contact me for Wholehearted Wellness Coaching.

Until next time, be well. And, embrace life fully!

*While Wholehearted Yoga sessions do not include cold exposure therapy, many dedicated practitioners do take cold showers every day. (Yes, including me!)


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