Deep Breathing and Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Deep Breathing and Vagus Nerve Stimulation You may have heard many people suggest deep breathing for helping with mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, but really do not go into much explanation on how and why deep breathing has such a calming effect on the nervous system. It is not uncommon to hesitate in trying something new if you are unsure as to why and how this new suggestion will help. I will share some basic knowledge to help you understand the connection to deep breathing and calmness, as well as provide instructions on how to produce the therapeutic effects. There is a nerve called the Vagus Nerve which begins in the brain and runs through the eyes, mouth, ears and throughout the body sending signals to organs, including the lungs, heart, and those in the digestive tract. When activated the nerve stimulates what is called the parasympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for calming and slowing down the body, while counteracting the sympathetic nervous system, known as the fight/flight system. In addition to creating calmness, the Vagus Nerve has been proven to help: Grow new brain cells Improve memory Promote better sleep Decrease insulin resistance (which is associated with diabetes) Fight inflammation Resist high blood pressure Decrease allergies Lower tension headaches Grow mitochondria (which aids in maintaining adequate energy levels) Here are some methods of stimulating the Vagus Nerve that you will find are easy, quick, and have huge benefits to your overall sense of well being. Deep Breathing to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve Take a deep inhale originating from the belly through the nose for five counts, then pause and exhale very slowly through the mouth. This exercise will help your muscles relax and supply more oxygen to your brain to release feel good hormones called endorphins For an added challenge, as you inhale think of taking in love and as you exhale think of sending out gratitude Om Chanting The Vagus Nerve can also be stimulated by chanting the word “OM” The sound causes a vibration around the ear, which is an area that the Vagus Nerve runs through. Find a comfortable seated position with your back straight. Place your hands palms down or up on your knees, or fold them in your lap. Take a deep inhale through the nose, then begin chanting OM on the exhale. Hold the “O” part of OM for 5 seconds, then hold the “M” for 10 seconds. Repeat this for 5- 10 minutes.