Updated: Sep 10, 2021
NOUN: 'Vagus' deriving from 'wondering'...
The vagus-wandering nerve is the longest nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system : tendrils serpentine from the palate of the mouth, wrapping around the heart and descending to the colon. Truly a chord from 'heaven to earth', as many have been led to compare this anatomical feature with the journey of kundalini.
Proffering a true myriad of functions + factors in cascade through our biology; it is obvious that proper tone of the vagal nerve impacts our entire perception of reality. In truth, the function of our entire nervous system is parallel to the function of our entire reality.
How does our reality change by our nervous system + vagal tone?
By regulating how we respond to and interpret 'stressors'.
Stress perception is often more biologically powerful than stress factors themselves. This is to say that when we receive 'stress', our nervous system is on automatic responses; increasing stress within the body, like inflammation, like reducing digestion, like cortisol production...until we consciously interrupt and regulate.
Upon stimulation [conscious or unconscious], a cascade of wonderous chemical reactions ensue within our body, some of which include: stem cell production, oxytocin onslaught, increased production of stomach acid and reduced blood pressure. Each of these impressive responses work, in some way, to soften and soothe the body in to a parasympathetic [relaxed] nervous state.
Why are we searching for this parasympathetic state?
This state -as triggered in our anatomy by the triggering of the vagus nerve- is the state deeply bound with the spiritual + physical + mental benefits of relaxation practices like meditation, yoga, breathwork, ceremony, bathing, cold water swimming, massage etc... The end goal of them all is a parasympathetic state: the state within which the body functions most optimally. This is all; we are striving for the optimal state of living. Soft + Soothe + Stress-less.
Within history we see a bounty of cultural practices spiraling from the center of vagal nerve stimulation. Yogic breathwork as an epitomal example of vagal nerve stimulation with the movement of the physical body. The vagus nerve runs from the cranium to the colon, deeply entwined within the lungs and movement of the abdominal cavity along the way.
Within present culture, Vagal nerve stimulation therapy has been approved as an affective treatment for epilepsy and depression and is being pushed to be approved as treatment for Alzheimer's and mood disorders. [All have a seemingly common link].
VAGAL STIMULATION AT HOME
Yoga and other ancient practices have been inadvertedly teaching the toning + triggering of the enigmatic vagus nerve for millennia; this is no complicated thing. What follows are simply some quick ways to stimulate it yourself when your environment feels stressful:
-the sound of 'OM' vibrates the oral cavity in such a way that the nerve is stimulated
-diaphragmatic belly breathing moves the abdominal cavity in a specific activation
-singing acts much like the sound 'OM' [remember how the nerve wonders around the cranium and oral cavity primarily]
-gargling [this is probably a mix of the action of singing and the presence of saliva...]
-filling mouth with saliva. We do not produce saliva when under stress, a dry mouth indicates stress to the body (and vice versa)
-hot + cold water facial submersion
Simply: the vagus nerve is mythical, enigmatic and one key to a kingdom of peace.