The Vagus Nerve and Balance
During this particular cosmic cycle the Vagus Nerve is possibly the most important nerve in the human body. The vagus nerve is also called the pneumogastric nerve or "Wanderer" and is the longest nerve we have in our nervous system. It is the 10th cranial nerve but most importantly of all it interfaces with the parasympathetic system and as such controls our relaxation response. The nerve is the only one that reaches from the root (colon) to the brain and sounds very like the kundalini serpent that the yogis and ancient texts refer to. It is probably the most physical proof that the whole energetic/chakra system actual exists.
The vagus nerve is biologically proven to connect and carry electricity/energy to all of the main "chakra points" in our body, ie our organs. It isn't just electricity though it is intelligent energy, it tells our body what to do, what enzymes to make, how to breathe and so on. Without it we would die. It stands to reason then that this energy is vital ie prana, chi or qi. This energy has been suppressed in the human parasympathetic system in favour of the much more dynamic yang(+ve charged or male energy) which is part of the sympathetic nervous system......until now!! The sympathetic nervous system "gears you up" and is part of the fight or flight response system. On every level of creation however yin/yang must be in balance. We only have to look at our world to see this is not the case since our creations and systems are just the outward reflection of the imbalance in each one of us.
The vagus nerve is responsible for keeping the larynx open for breathing and also feeds the lungs and diaphragm. Deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which in turn "switches" the parasympathetic system on bringing balance back to the mental, emotional and physical bodies. It is therefore crucial that we relearn how to breath properly. In my view it's amazing that we spend thousands of pounds on devices to stimulate the vagus nerve via surgical implants and yet we can do it for free by meditating, using specific breathing techniques and doing yoga. In our out of balance world of constantly doing it is important at this time that the under active vagus nerve is stimulated more. It is crucial that our over active sympathetic nervous system is brought back into balance with the parasympathetic system via the vagus nerve, that is our yang is brought back into balance with our yin. As we do this we greatly reduce inflammation in the body and therefore disease and increase immune system functionality. It is surprisingly easy to stimulate the vagus nerve and I have listed some techniques below. First though lets look at some evidence of what stimulating the vagus nerve can do.
Vagal Tone and Body Systems
The higher your vagal tone the easier it is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore relax after stress. The vagal tone is measured by plotting your heart rate alongside your breathing rate. The difference between your inhalation heart rate and your exhalation heart rate is known as your vagal tone. The higher the difference then the higher your vagal tone. Since the vagus nerve has a calming effect on systems that are fed by it, for exampe respiratory, digestive and nervous systems it makes sense that we should all be increasing our vagal tone.
We know when the vagus nerve is toned and functioning properly because we can feel it on different levels: Our digestion improves, our heart functions optimally, and our moods stabilize. We have an easier time moving from the more active and often stressful states of being to the more relaxed ones. As we get better at doing that, we can manage life’s challenges with the right blend of energy, engagement, and ease. When we can consistently maintain this flexible state we are thought to have “high vagal tone.”
“Low vagal tone,” on the other hand equates to a sluggish digestion system, increased heart rate, unpredictable moods and a sense of depletion. Low vagal tone correlates with impaired recovery of cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems and is therefore associated with many different conditions and diseases such as depression, chronic pain, epilepsy and so on. It has now been demonstrated that practices such as meditation, specific breathing techniques and yoga have a positive effect on vagal tone.
Ways To Activate The Vagus Nerve and Increase Vagal Tone
- Probiotics - There is now strong evidence from animal studies that microorganism in the second brain or gut can activate the vagus nerve and that such activation plays a critical role in mediating effects on the brain and behaviour. Certain vagal signals from the gut can instigate an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory effect depending on whether pathogenic or non-pathogenic organisms are detected. This means that the overall balance of "good" microorganisms must be maintained if we are to have positive emotions, less stress and most importantly keep our inflammation levels down.
- Meditation - brings both hemispheres of the brain into coherence, that is they begin to communicate with each other. The left brain (male) logical/linear side begins to integrate with the right (female) creative/expanded side as brain frequency patterns move from Beta Waves to Theta, Delta and even into Gamma Waves. As this happens it has a healing effect on the body as all systems including the nervous system come back into balance.
- Breathing Exercises such as Nadi Sodhana or Sudarshan Kriya. If you have trouble meditating then do breathing exercises first as breathing techniques are powerful methods to bring left and right hemispheres of the brain into balance.
- Exercise in general but especially yoga. Yoga has the added bonus of bringing the body back into alignment because it breaks down our beliefs or energetic patterns held in the nervous/endocrine systems whereas traditional exercise such as weight training, running and so on tends to do the opposite over a period of time. However I feel both types of exercise (You could say internal and external exercises) are necessary for completeness of being.
- Massage in general including self massage. Also certain massages have an increased stimulation effect on the vagus nerve such as the carotid sinus massage. Simply find the carotid pulse in the neck between the wind pipe and the thick band of muscle which is either side. There should be a kind of v shaped recess. Once you have found the pulse move laterally (outwards) towards the thick band of muscle. Massage this muscle on both sides and feel yourself begin to relax. Do not massage your carotid artery.
- Any kind of acute cold such as a cold shower or cold water splashed on the face will activate the vagus nerve and therefore your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Regular fasting or reducing calories will increase vagal tone and therefore relaxation response. As metabolism decreases this is handled partly by the vagus nerve.
- Laughter stimulates the vagus nerve and also stimulating the vagal nerve can cause us to laugh more. Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Humming mantras and listening to upbeat music all stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Happy positive social relationships stimulate vagus nerve activity.
- Acupuncture and acupressure stimulate the vagus nerve, for example by stimulating various points around the ear. This can be done easily by squeezing all points around the ear from the top down to the ear lobes. Try it and feel the difference.
All in all we are definitely moving back into a more positive world although if you look outwardly at present it may appear chaotic. The outward chaos is just humanity waking up and realising that the world is just a reflection of themselves, their out of balance energy systems. As each person awakens they begin to find homeostasis in their own bodies by stimulating the vagus nerve using such techniques as already described. We each release the negative patterns and perceptions that have kept our ancestral lineage in bondage to those few who want to control and have power over the rest of us. A new world is dawning but you can only see this new world as you take time to know thyself and realise we direct our lives from the inside out.