Our vagus nerve has been getting increasingly more attention as of late…..but why?
Your autonomic nervous system is the branch of your peripheral nervous system which regulates the function of your internal organs like your heart, stomach, glands, smooth and cardiac muscles – all the things you do not consciously control. Your autonomic nervous system has two divisions which serve the same organs but create opposite effects in them: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Most of us are dominated by our sympathetic system, so we need to focus on increasing the parasympathetic tone, that's the part of the nervous system that helps us to repair and restore, commonly known as the 'rest and digest' part. This part is largely operated by the vagus nerve, which travels through the body, branching out to many of our internal organs.
These are some tips on how to help this:
1. Cold showers:
When we expose our bodies to something cold – this first causes an increased sympathetic nervous system response but is quickly halted after we acclimatize to the cold. In other words, our parasympathetic nervous system increases –other things we can do include splashing cold water on your face or drinking cold water.
2. Singing, humming and chanting:
Humming, chanting and singing all increase heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is a measure of the balance between the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases the heart rate and increases the relaxation response via the vagus nerve. Singing produces slow, regular and deep respiration causing a pulsating vagal activity. Singing at the top of your lungs also makes you work the muscles at the back of your throat. All the more reason to sing in the shower, or literally anywhere!
Yoga is a parasympathetic activation exercise. Similar to singing, yoga breathing and guided breathing have beneficial effects on switching to our “rest and digest” state..
4. Deep breathing exercises:
Close your eyes and breath in thinking of brining light through your eyes and when you breath out visualise use that light to shine out like head lights.
There are countless other ways to increase our vagal tone including – tai chi, massages, specific supplementation, activation of specific muscles, chewing food properly, fasting, light exercise etc. These top 6 practices for vagus nerve stimulation are simple and uncomplicated and can be implemented into your clients (and your own) daily routines.