The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body that helps to connect your brain to other important organs of your body. It forms a key part of the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system and affects many bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, circulation, etc.
In Latin, vagus means wandering, a term that accurately represents the nature of the vagus nerve. It wanders down the body and touches almost all major organs, including your gut, lungs, heart, liver, etc. The vagus nerve acts as a bridge not only between your central and autonomic nervous system but also between your conscious and subconscious minds, helping your mind to connect with your body.
What are the Functions of Vagus Nerve?
The Vagus nerve performs the following four main functions in the body:
- Activating sensory functions in throat, heart, lungs and abdomen
- Providing taste sensation near the root of the tongue
- Stimulating movement of the muscles in the neck to promote swallowing and speech
- Activating parasympathetic nervous functions responsible for digestion, respiration and heart rate.
The vagus nerve also helps strengthen communication between your brain and the gut, relax your mind and body with deep breaths, reduce inflammation in your body and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. It is also an important nerve for fear management and helps to deal with stress and anxiety.
How to Stimulate Vagus Nerve with Breathing Exercises?
Damage to the vagus nerve causes long term Hiccups. It also causes issues with voice and increased heart rate. The channelised flow of Prana helps the vagus nerve to function in a better way. There is how you can stimulate it with breathing exercises.
- Sit in a comfortable position or lay down on your bed. You can keep your eyes open or closed, according to your convenience. Then, keep your hands on your belly and slowly start taking deep breaths.
- To stimulate the vagus nerve, you have to exhale longer than you inhale. Try to reach the ratio of 1:2 with your inhalation and exhalation. It means that if you inhale to a count of 1-2-3-4, you should exhale to a count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
- You can start by inhaling for 1-2-3-4 and exhaling for 1-2-3-4-5. Then gradually increase the pace till you reach a 1:2 ratio.
- Practice this breathing technique for 5 minutes to activate your vagus nerve and calm your parasympathetic nervous system. You can also add music while practising this exercise.
The vagus nerve is one of the most important parts of your nervous system. By stimulating the vagus nerve, you can enhance its function and boost many processes in the body, such as digestion, breathing, etc. There are many ways to activate your vagus nerve, out of which, breathing exercises play the most effective role.
This article is reviewed by Dr. Ashwini