The Unexpected Key To Better Health: The Vagus Nerve

Science has brought to the forefront the importance of our parasympathetic nervous system in helping us live a healthy and balanced life.


While there are no specific guidelines for how much relaxation a person should incorporate into their lifestyle, making time to unwind and enjoy life is an important part of maintaining good health. Deep relaxation, like meditation, when practiced regularly not only relieves stress and anxiety, but also is shown to improve mood.


When the body goes into a relaxed state, your blood pressure and heart rate lower, you breathe at a slower rate, and your immune system functions at a higher level.

Practicing simple relaxation techniques improve your antibodies and natural killer cells significantly. Your sleep pattern improves, digestion function increases, and overall health becomes better.


Most of us are familiar with the central nervous system, the bundle of nerves that leaves the brain and moves into the spinal column. The vagus nerve is part of the sensory-somatic system, a subdivision of the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral nerves make their way directly out into the body. Most begin at the spinal column, but within the peripheral nervous system there are a group of nerves called cranial nerves that exit directly from the brain. The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve. The Latin root of the word vagus is “wandering.” It exits at the medulla, part of the brain stem. It begins its journey below the base of the brain, roams down the throat along the esophagus, continues its sojourn near the lungs and heart, and innervates the digestive system.

Regardless of the method of relaxation and parasympathetic nervous system activation, there is one component common to all of them: the VAGUS nerve.

Most of our lives are spent in the sympathetic nervous system, the fight, flight, or freeze modes. When the sympathetic nervous system is active, then stress hormones flood our systems, creating a state of dis-ease within. Vagus nerve can help us de-stress and get healthy. Therefore, it is important we learn how to activate our vagus nerve.



Long deep breathing is the number one key to activating the vagus nerve.


By bringing awareness to the breath, lengthening and deepening it, you turn on the vagus nerve, giving your body the opportunity to rejuvenate.

So, let’s stop and breathe with awareness for ten minutes:

  • As you inhale, lift your collarbone.

  • As you exhale, soften and relax.

  • As you inhale, expand your ribs out under your arms.

  • As you exhale, soften and relax.

  • As you inhale, expand your ribs across your back

  • As you exhale, soften and relax.


Here are a number of pathways to the vagus nerve.

  • Immerse your face (especially the forehead, eyes, and two-thirds of your cheeks) in cold water for three minutes.

  • Practice yoga and include gentle backbends, forward bends, and twists.

  • Chant and sing in low resonant tones.

  • Immerse your tongue in saliva while doing long deep breathing.

  • Laugh with deep diaphragmatic laughs.

Benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation

  • It reduces the inflammatory response throughout our system.

  • It helps the brain emit new cells.

  • It decreases depression and anxiety and lifts your mood.

  • It assists in developing razor-sharp memory.

  • It raises your immunity.

  • It raises the level of endorphins, which bring about positive feelings in the body and reduce the sensation of pain.

Get to know yourself in your parasympathetic nervous system. Get to know your vagus nerve. Create more joy. Stay happy. Be more energetic. Live a more compassionate life toward yourself and others. All of this will optimize your fitness efforts and more.

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