Let me introduce you to a part of our body that no ones talks about, but is pretty vital, particularly at the moment due to the stress sickness that is sweeping through us almost as rapidly as the dreaded C virus.
The vagus nerve…have you heard of it? It is an amazing nerve, also known as “The Wanderer,” a meandering huge nerve that connects our brain to our body. The nerve starts in the medulla oblongata (the portion of the brainstem that controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion and heart rate), branches up into the brain and goes through the jaw following the digestive tract, branching off at the lungs and heart and continuing down through to the esophagus, stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines.
“The Wanderer” loves food/energy and so it follows the entire digestive system while also receiving some of its nutrients from the different portions of the brain, the heart and the lungs in the form of Prana (pure energy). This fascinating nerve is known as the Queen of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our relaxation responses.
This system is often underdeveloped, even deactivated when the body remains in a constant state of fight-or-flight due to the stress and anxiety that comes with living in today’s society. This is exactly the fate of so many people at the moment as they strive to keep control and resist what is happening in our Covid stricken lives.
It means the sympathetic nervous system is in survival overdrive and so your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your heart rate increases and digestion becomes impaired.
In this particular case, “The Wanderer” is being starved of the essential nutrients it needs to help you survive. This can result in a whole host of chronic illnesses and impairments such as chronic fatigue, headaches, breathing disorders (asthma), heartburn, I.B.S., chronic diarrhea or constipation.
The good news is that we can tone our Vagal Nerve, we can reactivate it with simple breathing techniques, meditation and Kundalini yoga kriyas. Also, instead of starving “The Wanderer,” feed it with sattvic (pure) foods, daily deep conscious breathing, in order to feed it the purest Prana possible.
By knowing the power of a healthy Vagus Nerve and how to strengthen it, we are suddenly equipped with very real, grounded information about how to activate our spiritual centers, our chakras and our life-force energy. They are intimately connected. As we learn to see our bodies as the home of our spirits, and not separate, then we find ourselves more fully equipped to “live” in an integrated world, one with higher values expressed and deeper love experienced.
Here are a few more tips to improve your Vagal tone and feed your Wanderer:
Kundalini Yoga - try the kriya, Exercising the Central Vagus Nerve, if you are suffering from severe anxiety, coupled with digestive troubles. It's a challenging leg-lifting Kundalini classic but incredibly effective.
Kundalini Yoga activates the vagus nerve whenever we chant, sing, whistle, pull neck lock, with eye focus (drishti), and practicing postures such as shoulder stand, plow pose, and cobra pose
Meditation - bring your hands into prayer mudra and meditate. The position of the knuckles of the thumbs – in the notch of the breastbone – is a reflex point for the vagus nerve, one of the major nerves going to the pineal gland up the front of the body. Research on the vagus nerve has revealed that it is involved in our feelings of compassion, empathy, and goodness. This pressure immediately causes the pineal and pituitary glands to secrete, creating a resonance in the brain that moves it out of its normal rhythm to a meditative state. This allows your prayer to come from the heart.
Cold Showers - think I'll give this one a miss. If you are of Vata constitution you will find this suggestion a challenge!
Laughter - now this one I can do!
Connection to the Earth – walking barefoot in the grass - also a favourite, even in the Winter.
Pranayama exercises - One Minute Breath is a good one, to develop conscious breathing and deepen and slow the breath right down.
Massages - missing my Ranjan Ayurvedic massages at the moment. This truly does tone up the vagus nerve and entire body, leaving you feeling light, happy and healthy. For now, self-massage will have to do.
Eating well - avoid heavy, dense tamasic foods such as red meat, processed foods, and sugar
Humming is also an excellent way to strengthen your vagal tone.
Basically, what it boils down to is: those things that make you happy and improve the quality of your life, strengthen your body and boost your life-force energy are wonderful in helping to cope with the changes taking place in the world right now. The health of our Vagus Nerve is vital in channeling our Prana-Shakti/ Kundalini and maintaining high Vagal tone is the pathway for health and strength as we enter a new era.
So take good care of your Wanderer.