What is the connection between yoga and the vagus nerve? Sometimes, we refer to our instinctive wisdom as “gut feelings.” Maybe we don’t know why we feel the way we do or how we know the answer to a question. We just do. As a matter of fact, some of us chalk it up to instinct or a sixth sense while others discount the phenomenon altogether. Could there be a scientific explanation? Indeed, the answer may be the vagus nerve is a physical link to the mind-body connection.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
Firstly, the vagus nerve starts in the brain stem and goes all the way to the colon. Secondly, it returns sensory information from the throat and the intestines to the brain. Lastly, according to researchers, it is, in fact, the internal eye that connects the mind to the body.
Is the Vagus Nerve Related to Yoga?
To put it another way, the vagus nerve literally activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, the vagus nerve is the mechanism that controls involuntary actions and affects mood. With this in mind, doctors sometimes implant vagus nerve stimulators into patients with treatment-resistant depression. Yet, a Yoga practice can produce some of the same effects.
Researchers at U. C. Berkeley question whether the vagal nerve bundle is also the body’s center for compassion while alternative health practitioners more often associate it with the chakra system or Kundalini.
How to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve?
In the first place, we know that Yoga postures activate the parasympathetic nervous system by massaging the organs, improving circulation, relaxing muscles, and quieting the mind. They not only serve as moving meditations, but they also prepare the body for meditation during seated postures or Corpse Pose.
Pranayama (Yogic Breathing)
When we breathe deeply and slowly, we stimulate the vagus nerve. Although breathing is a part of poses and meditation, it is also a limb of Yoga in itself. Techniques range from simple to complex, but most are easily learned.
The vagus nerve controls physical functions in the throat, larynx, and ears – the area known as the throat chakra. The vagus nerve may also be responsible for the proverbial “lump in the throat.” Chanting or listening to chants energizes nerves in the throat area and releases blocked energy.
Food for Thought
Imagine a pill proven to release neurotransmitters, promote feelings of good will, release tension, and improve health. We would be standing in line to buy it. Why not try Yoga instead? At the moment, researchers are enthusiastically, looking into the connection between yoga and the vagus nerve.
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3 thoughts on “About Yoga and the Vagus Nerve”
Hi Gopi, could you please give us a link to the researchers at U C Berkley?
Gopi is on vacation, but here is the source:
Scientific American Mind 20, 18 – 19 (2009)
Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts
A psychologist probes how altruism, evolution and neurobiology mean that we can succeed by not being cutthroat
Why do people do good things? Is kindness hardwired into the brain, or does this tendency arise via experience? Dacher Keltner, director of the Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, investigates these questions from multiple angles and often generates results that are both surprising and challenging.
I think you need a subscription to access more information from Scientific American Mind.