Where is the vagus nerve and what does it do?
The vagus (pronounced vey-guhs) nerve is part of the peripheral nervous system, peripheral meaning “all around” sensory. It is the 10th pair of the 12 cranial nerves, therefore it originates from the brain stem. The vagus nerve then runs down the pharynx, larynx, and trachea to the thoracic cavity, where it innervates the cardiac, respiratory, and digestive systems.
What happens to these systems when you stimulate the vagus nerve?
Enhances function of the cardiac system, including decreasing rapid heart rate and blood pressure. A helpful insight for anyone with risk of cardiovascular disease.
Enhances function of the respiratory system, including regulating breathing cycles. Helpful for those who have trouble performing breathing exercises.
Enhances function of the digestive system, including better peristalsis and excretion. Helpful for anyone experiencing constipation, bloating, gas, or other gastrointestinal discomforts.
5 Ridiculously Awesome Hacks to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve (while having fun!)
Gargle: Gargling activates the muscles at the back of your throat, which are connected to the vagus nerve.
Sing: Singing and humming activates the vocal cords, which are also connected to the vagus nerve.
Take a cold shower: Cold exposure is becoming increasing popular, thanks to The Iceman himself, Wim Hof. He teaches us that the cold stimulates the vagus nerve because the only way to endure it, is by taking deep breaths and fully utilizing the respiratory system, which is directly related to the vagus nerve. This brings us to our next point.
Try Ujjayi breathing: the audible breathing technique used in yoga is called ujjayi (pronounced ooh-JAI-yee) breath; sometimes called “the ocean breath”. This is due to the sound this breathing technique makes when done properly. Performed with a constriction at the back of the throat while breathing with the belly and the chest, this whooshing sound induces complete vagal activation.
Get a massage: Read more below!
Positive effects of massage therapy on the vagus nerve
Stimulating the vagus nerve sends a message to your brainstem and your body that is time to relax and unwind, just like a massage. Depending on the technique being used, massage therapy can manually calm down or energize the vagus nerve, promoting positive effects on the body and mind, such as:
Desensitizes sensory nerve endings and enhances general mind-body relaxation, especially when a slow pace is used.
Stimulates sensory nerve endings and is good for stagnant energy and poor circulation, when a fast pace is used.
Reduces anxiety and depression.
Enhances restful sleep.
Stimulates alertness and focus, aiding in auditory and visual processing, and sustaining attention.
Increases intellectual abilities, including improved memory, comprehension, reasoning, and problem solving.
These so-called “life hacks” have a positive connotation to them because they make living easier. These vagus nerve hacks come in handy for anyone experiencing shortness of breath, sleepless nights, and trouble focusing, especially if these are due to stress. When the body and mind finally rests, the vagus nerve tells the body to slow down the heartbeat and boost metabolism, thus enhancing the quality of breathing. Try these hacks to promote good health.
Plus, have fun with it! Gargle, sing, spend an hour doing yoga or getting a massage!
To book a massage for your vagus nerve, please click Here.