Breathwork is one way to improve the health of the vagus nerve...... wondering what on earth that is?
Well the vagus nerve runs through your body connecting all of your organs and is in charge of regulating your nervous system. The system that allows us to fight or flight, or rest and digest.
A healthy vagal tone means a healthy stress response, emotional regulation, resilience in the face of trauma and stress, greater connections and better physical health as well.
Stimulating the vagus means you become calmer and clearer, benefiting your autonomic nervous system and your mental health.
It helps the immune system and inflammation response to disease.
The main job of the vagus nerve is emotional regulation... Any time your brain perceives a threat - due to the sympathetic nervous system, you are triggered into fight or flight response. the parasympathetic nervous system triggers the opposite - rest and digest. However sometimes the body remains in flight or flight or freeze as if the body is still in danger. The vagal tone is correlated with the capacity to regulate stress responses, and to know when the body is out of danger. If you aren't healthy emotionally you can be stuck in fight flight freeze states.
You can restore self-regulating vagal function through grounding and mindfulness as well self biofeedback such as breathwork.
Breathwork's long slow deep breathing regulates the vagal tone and allows for frozen fight or flight to be released from the body. This can in effect improve resilience, enhance mood, lift depression and relieve anxiety amongst other benefits.
Other ways to stimulate vagal tone are :
Gargling. This is probably the simplest and most accessible way for a person to work on their vagal tone. In the morning gargle some water as hard as you can. You’ll know you’ve stimulated the vagus nerve when you begin to get a tear response in your eyes.
Laughter. Laughter releases a ton of neurotransmitter which improves vagal tone. Laugh hard and often.
Fish Oils. EPA and EHA lower heart rate which strengthens vagal tone.
Fasting. The vagus nerve is the director of the parasympathetic nervous system known as the rest and digest system. Giving the digestion process a break through intermittent fasting or less snacks throughout the day will also improve vagal tone.
Yoga. The breathing and movement of yoga helps with digestion and has been shown to increase GABA levels. Improving GABA levels will stimulate the vagal tone.
Singing. Singing works the muscles in the back of the throat which stimulates the vagus nerve. Just be sure to sing at the top of your lungs for this effect to take place. A great place to do this is in the car.
Cold Showers. Cold showers are tough at first, but they can greatly improve vagal tone. As you adjust to the cold, the sympathetic nervous system lowers and the parasympathetic system gets stronger directly affecting the vagus nerve.
Massage. A massage stimulates the lymphatics and improves vagal tone.
Aromatherapy. Essential oils such as lavender and bergamot have shown to increase heart rate variability which improves vagal tone.
Connection. Community and belonging help you to feel safe and secure. When you are connected, you are calmer and more positive.
There are many things you can do to activate your vagus nerve and many benefits to a healthy vagal tone. It is your super power and secret weapon to a better you.
Want to explore breathwork for healthy vagal tone?
Join me in my upcoming day retreat at Purusha, Lincolnshire.....