Calming The Vagus Nerve

Published on 4th January 2019


It frustrates me that modern western medicine is still slow to look at the body holistically and realise the importance of the mind-body connection. It doesn’t take much to realise that due to nerves and other neuro transmitters such as hormones our mind and our body are intrinsically connected.

For example, here are some states that starts in the brain but manifest in the body;

  • Nervous butterflies
  • Embarrassment and Blushing
  • Anger and lashing out
  • Going into shock
  • Nervous sweating
  • Seeing/Smelling food and salivation
  • Sexual arousal

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system which has the effect of calming the body. It transmits information from the body to the brain and vice versa.

The sympathetic nervous system is the alerting system of the body and it this which is so active in our hyper alert children and also in us when we are stressed and in overdrive.

The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. That means that it emanates from the skull and the brain and actively stimulates and enervates (activates) the lungs, heart, soft palette, intestines, facial muscles, larynx, digestion, spleen, liver, kidney and vision.

This explains why when we are stressed and/or distressed the body mirrors what is happening in our brain.

  • The muscles tense ready for action
  • The pupils dilate (get bigger) to see further
  • The heart beats harder and faster to pump more blood to the muscles of the legs for that hundred metre dash
  • The breathing becomes rapid and shallow often leading to us feeling more stressed
  • Cholesterol is released from the liver for extra energy
  • Blood is diverted from our digestive system to the muscles
  • Our voice can become strained or we may raise our voice or growl

Rebalancing and re-stimulating the vagus nerve

  • Breath in for a count of 4 and out for 5/6  for 7-10 minutes day 
  • Splash cold water or even place ice on your face
  • Sing or chant
  • Go upside down- yoga sun salutations or downward dog
  • Meditate
  • Exchange love and compassion with family and friends
  • Breathe in for 4 hold for 7 breathe out for 8
  • Laugh
  • Exercise
  • Have a massage
  • Go out in sunlight
  • Perform acts of kindness

We look at the Vagus nerve on our anatomy and physiology course in the neurological system unit


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