The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs from the brainstem to the abdomen, and it plays a role in a variety of functions, including heart rate, breathing, digestion, and mood. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can release chemicals that have a calming effect on the brain. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can also help to improve sleep.
When you’re under stress, experiencing anxiety, working out hard, in pain or feeling on edge, your body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is what we call being in the “fight or flight” mode.
Stimulating the vagus nerve can induce help you relax by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. – also known as being in the”rest and digest” mode. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it causes the heart rate to slow down, the breathing to become deeper, and the muscles to relax.
I spend more time than I would like in the sympathetic nervous system. But there are several ways to stimulate the vagus nerve… some ways are easier than others.
I have quite a few friends who practice the tapping technique. I can’t say that I have ever mastered this. There’s a bit of practice involved to get it right.
So recently I found a shortcut that works literally in 2 minutes. It’s called Truvaga. It’s a new handheld device that provides a gentle energy signal through the skin and underlying soft tissues to reach the vagus nerve directly. You simply hold it to the side of your neck and kick back for 2 minutes, which is the duration of each preprogrammed session. I noticed a difference after my very first session. Some people may need a few sessions before feeling the effects.
While there are other ways to induce relaxation by stimulating the vagus nerve, this is one of the easiest and most convenient ways I have ever tried. And Truvaga uses a patented technology.
Some other ways to to stimulate your vagus nerve naturally are:
- Yoga. Yoga poses that involve deep breathing and twisting, such as cobra pose and seated twists.
- Singing, humming or chanting. When you do these activities, the vocal cords vibrate, which also massages the vagus nerve. Try singing or humming a song that you enjoy.
- Cold exposure: Cold exposure can also help to increase heart rate variability which is a measure of how well the heart is able to adapt to changes in the body.
- Deep breathing: When you breathe deeply, the diaphragm contracts, which massages the vagus nerve. Try to breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of four. This is known as “box breathing.”
- Exercise: When you exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure increase initially activating the sympathetic nervous system. After finishing, if you spend time to cool down and stretch, your body will send signals to the vagus nerve to relax. Try not to skip this important part of your workout.