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How Yoga Stimulates the Vagus Nerve and Reduces Anxiety

Did you know that taking a few deep, full breaths can decrease anxiety? Are you aware that your vagus nerve is part of this? Your vagus nerve is a part of your nervous system that regulates your body’s reactions to stress. This nerve causes a “rest, digest, and heal” response within the body that promotes optimal health. It is fascinating to know that your body has a built-in stress regulator.

Usually, when stress and anxiety are present, these are indicators that your nervous system is reacting to an external stimulus. When triggered by chronic stress, your brain can even stay in this “fight or flight” mode for long periods. This article will explore helpful ways to overcome stress and anxiety by activating the vagus nerve through yoga, meditation, and conscious connected breathwork.

What Is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. According to Neuroanatomy, Cranial Nerve ten (Vagus Nerve) by Brian J. Kenny and Bruno Bordoni, the vagus nerve is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system. It oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions. This includes mood control, immune response, digestion, and heart rate.

When your vagus nerve is functioning properly, it facilitates a smooth transition from a stressful state to a relaxed state. This messenger informs the body that it is time to calm down.

Yoga and the Vagus Nerve

Yoga can help the vagus nerve to function optimally. This healing art guides your vagus nerve through breathing and movement to restore the body’s equilibrium. Fortunately, this calming effect can remain within the body long after the yoga session ends. Yoga has additional benefits including improved circulation, lowered blood pressure, an improved sense of balance, and increased mental clarity.

These types of classes tend to be low-stress environments that facilitate calm. There is no pressure. You can do the poses in your own way, at your own pace. If you’re new to yoga, you can seek out a gentle or restorative class if you’re not ready for more challenging poses. The point is not to do complex movements but to help your body enter a calm, healing state.

Stillness can be cultivated with yoga. The final resting pose during yoga, called Shavasana, requires stillness. This can be challenging for some people. However, when yoga is continuously practiced, the vagus nerve is rewired to send a signal to your body that it is time to relax. Practicing yoga can stimulate your vagus nerve to decrease anxiety and promote relaxed stillness.

Rewiring Your Brain

You have the power to rewire your brain by changing your thinking. By thinking positively, you can help engage your rest and digest part of your nervous system. As with anything, this takes practice and the commitment to rewiring how your body responds to stress within your life.

Decreasing Anxiety Through the Vagus Nerve

According to a fact sheet from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), learning your triggers to stress can reduce your anxiety. There are many ways that you can reduce anxiety by stimulating your vagus nerve. You can experiment and learn which tools work for you. Here are some options that may be effective:

  • Conscious connected breathwork: Most people take their breath for granted and are not aware that they are even breathing. However, breathing is important because your breath controls the amount of oxygen within your body. Conscious connected breathwork connects the mind, body, emotions, and spirit. The breath then forms a bridge between the unconscious and conscious mind, allowing healing to take place.
  • Laugh: When is the last time you had a belly laugh? Laughter lowers blood pressure and improves mood. Watching funny movies and shows is a good way to get the laughter flowing. Embrace your humorous side and decrease anxiety while creating healing within your body.
  • Meditation: Taking several minutes each day to calm your nervous system can do wonders for your physical body. Various types of meditation can regulate your vagus system to manage the fight or flight response.
  • Cold water immersion: The idea of immersing yourself in cold water may not warm your soul. However, immersing yourself in cold water is known to activate the vagus nerve and reduce inflammation within your body. If immersing yourself in cold water does not sound appealing, start with several seconds of cold water at the end of your shower. You can also try splashing cold water on your face.

Healing Is Available

No matter where you are in your recovery, you can use a variety of tools to benefit your healing journey. By trying something new to help yourself maintain your serenity, you are doing yourself a favor. There are many ways to increase your chances of success in your recovery. No one ever said recovery would be easy, but everything along your path will help you to grow into the person you are meant to be. Understanding the vagus nerve and how it pertains to overall well-being can be a healthy tool in overall wellness.

You are deepening your awareness of your recovery. Understanding how to take care of yourself is important for overall well-being. Yoga, meditation, and other vagus nerve-stimulating activities are beneficial tools to aid in your recovery. These techniques help you maintain peace and calm. Life can get overwhelming and stress inevitably presents itself, but you can turn to a variety of tools for help. At The Guest House, we understand how overwhelming recovery can be. This is why we make ourselves available to you every step of the way. We meet you where you are in your journey and encourage growth on all levels. Your well-being is our top priority. Give us a call at (855) 483-7800 today.