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Vagus Nerve, is the body’s unique nerve which is by far the most important nerve to be stimulated in today’s time of crisis, threat, anxiety, innumerable stress, pain, tensions. Especially in times of crisis like this Coronavirus Pandemic where people are continuously under the anxiety and fear of falling sick, hospitalization, death.
Anatomically, this is the 10th cranial nerve which starts in the brain and runs entirely throughout the body till the reproductive organs. Therefore the name ‘Vagus’ comes which means a wanderer which wander through every organ of the body. It is also the longest and most complex nerve. Just to simplify, it runs from the brain and branch as dorsal and ventral branches with numerous sub-branches running through both front and back of our body touching almost every organ.
But, why is this nerve so important when it comes to wellbeing ? The reason is that this particular nerve is the cynosure of Parasympathetic Nervous system, the ‘rest and digest’ stimulation or the relaxation of the body. It is this nerve which helps the body to self regulate and maintain the homeostasis. It is this nerve which maintains the brain-gut communication. The immune system is rejuvenated and work efficiently. There are the body’s recovery and healing.
The Autonomic nervous system has 2 main areas:
Sympathetic Nervous system: This system is mainly responsible for mobilization, high energy state, vigilant state. So, the heart rate, blood pressure, alertness, breathing rate are increased. In such state, there is no energy left for growth, repair and regeneration.
Parasympathetic Nervous system: The vagus nerve is mainly responsible for this system. This is the ‘rest and digest’ state where the metabolism is optimized, heart rate lowers, breathing slows down, blood pressure lowers and the body is relaxed. There is a restoration of growth. repair and the immune system is regulated to it’s highest potential. The body is in recovery and the healing state from any damage that it went through.
Ideally, there is a balance of harmony between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Whenever, there is an alert state, a threat, there is an automatic switch-on of the sympathetic system. Once, the threat is gone, there is a switch-off of the sympathetic and parasympathetic system takes the centre-stage. But in today’s time, we, people are so caught up with the day to day stress, anxiety, fear, that throughout the day, the sympathetic system remains in action. There is hardly the switch off. As a result, there is less potential for growth, repair, regeneration, rejuvenation of the body. The immune system is compromised and we become susceptible to disease. Most of the time, or even during an entire lifetime, we remain stuck in the high tone state which is not good for the body at all. We, end up, suffering from various chronic conditions and diseases. Therefore, it’s high time that we realise this default habit in our system and start taking measures to activate the Vagus Nerve (parasympathetic) tone daily for our overall wellbeing.
There are various ways by which the Vagus Nerve get stimulated to maintain the calm relaxed state:
1.Social connection: The ventral vagus branch is mainly stimulated by social connection and engagement. By keeping ourselves connected to loved ones, people around with positive emotions like love, gratitude, joy, empathy and compassion, there is the self-regulation of the body-mind connection and the homeostasis is maintained.
2.Deep breathing: Baroreceptors present in the heart and upper body around the neck get stimulated by slow deep breathing. Therefore, regulating the breath with slow deep cycles of breaths can instantly stimulate the vagus and lowers the heart rate and blood pressure bringing the vitals to a relaxed state. There are different breathing exercises like the Pranayama in yoga, Win Hoff method and other helpful breathing techniques.If you want to learn more about diaphargmatic breathing, you can listen and understand from audio CD of Dr Andrew Weil
3.Meditation: Meditation and deep relaxation can naturally put our body in the parasympathetic tone. Chanting or humming words, mantras can directly stimulate the Vagus nerve. The singing and chanting in the chorus (like the choir in Church), can increase the heart variability rate and naturally causes relaxation waves in the body. Prayers are highly effective in increasing heart variability rate and maintaining calmness.
4. Cold exposure: Exposing the body to cold like cold water shower, splashing cold water in the face, drinking ice cold water, sudden cold exposure can naturally stimulate the Vagus Nerve.
5.Message: Having messages like a foot, hand, neck messages along the carotid arteries can naturally stimulate the Vagus Nerve. It also lowers heart and blood pressure.
6.Gargling: This is a simple technique where the muscles of the pallet are stimulated by gargling which inturn stimulates Vagus nerve instantly.
7.Exercises: Usually mild low-intensity exercises like stretching, Yoga, Tai Chi stimulate and improves the brain-gut axis and helps in relaxation. High intense training should always be done in short intervals followed by relaxation so that the body learns to fluctuate from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in a quick recovery state.
8. Food rich in omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics, fermented food can naturally stimulate the gut which in turn stimulate the gut-brain axis.
9. Music: Relaxation and listening to the music of your choice can naturally increase the heart variability rate, gives your pleasure, joy which enhances immunity and stimulate the Vagus Nerve.
10. Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting provide the much-needed break, the rest to the digestive process. The metabolism slows down and improves the vagus nerve activity.
Thanks for reading.
Blessings and much love to all 💐