Photo credit – Amanda Hirsch/Flickr
Stimulating the vagus nerve is important as it reduces stress, anxiety, anger and inflammation by activating the relaxation response of our parasympathetic nervous system. Deep slow diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the nerve and lowers stress responses associated with the “fight or flight” mechanisms in the body. This deep breathing also improves heart rate variability (HRV) which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals of the heart.
I started thinking again about the vagus nerve when my Pilates teacher, Robin Powell, reminded me to think about the vagus nerve while I was doing my Pilates exercises in class. Just taking my mind’s attention towards the nerve and off the fact I was doing the difficult teaser exercises was huge in helping me do the exercises more calmly, to breathe more deeply and rhythmically and consequently all my exercises became better and more controlled. It made doing the exercises easier and I felt stronger.
Many people are suffering with intense anxiety and it is very difficult for them to take deep breaths. This is where EFT can be so effective to help the mind/body to relax enough to even begin to take those deep breaths. An experiment you can do to see how deeply you are able to breathe is to tap on the EFT meridian points for a few rounds while checking on the depth of your breath, as you keep tapping and checking on the capacity of your lungs to take in air in a relaxed way, you will find you can take deeper and deeper breaths. To learn more about what Gary Craig calls the Constricted Breathing EFT Technique, you can click on this link to the page on his website:
More about the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve runs from the brain stem and travels all the way down into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines. It also connects to glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones like Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin. These hormones influence digestion, metabolism, and naturally, the relaxation response. The vagus nerve is the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s the one that calms you down by reducing your heart rate, blood pressure and controlling your relaxation response.
As you become mindful of your vagus nerve throughout your body and to take deep breaths, notice whether it helps you to feel more calm.
Start taking deep breaths by inhaling into your belly and expanding your diaphragm, while counting to five. Then very slowly exhale while puckering your lips. To get into a vagus-nerve stimulation mode, try reducing the number of breaths from the usual 10-14 per minute to 5-7 per minute. Don’t forget that if this is really hard for you to do you can do EFT-Tapping first so that you can be relaxed enough. Studies have shown that practicing 10 minutes a day of tapping and deep breathing is enough for you to notice you’re relaxing yourself. The key is diligence! Without forcing it, gradually work on reducing the number of breaths per minute. The whole point is feeling more relaxed. It will also help you to start to be mindful of when you notice yourself in that ‘fight or flight’ place and to take some deep breaths and slow down to be able to take better care of yourself.
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/diaphragmatic-breathing-exercises-and-your-vagus-nerve
Liz Newman: http://liznewmanacupuncture.com/2015/09/
Image of Parasympathetic Innervation