The Vagus nerve is one of the longest running nerves in the body. The vagus nerve is a part of the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is particularly regulated by the vagus nerve, which is involved in controlling heart rate, digestion and even your immune response.
The activity of the vagus nerve is referred to as your vagal tone, the better your vagal tone, the better your body’s response to “stress” can be. In this case, “stress” can be pain, fear, or true stress. One of the most common places people hold their “stress” is their pelvic floor, so addressing the vagal tone can make a big impact on how the whole body runs, especially the pelvic floor.
Here are techniques to stimulate the vagus nerve and improve vagal tone:
- Deep breathing – breathe IN through your nose, OUT through your mouth. Breathing OUT is what stimulates the vagus nerve. Try to exhale longer than you inhale. Try to slow your breathing down, aim for 6 breaths in 1 minute.
- Loud gargling with water or loud humming or chewing gum- since the vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords you can stimulate the nerve with activities like this.
- Cold Exposure – acute cold exposure can stimulate your vagus nerve, during your next shower lower the water temperature down for at least 30 seconds and work your way up to longer periods of time.
- Laughing stimulates the diaphragm which stimulates the vagus nerve.
- Meditation – shown to stimulate the vagus nerve, by promoting relaxation and reducing sympathetic nerve overactivity.
- Vagus nerve massage
- Carotid sinus – gentle massaging along the right side of your throat can stimulate the vagus nerve
- Hand Massage – place pressure on the inside of your pinky, apply pressure for 30-60 seconds followed by making small circles maintaining pressure
- Ear massage – Place your finger directly behind your ear. Apply pressure for 30-60 seconds
Try these techniques out and lets get to improving our vagal tone!