Updated: Oct 9, 2020
Also known as the 'wonderer' or 'vagabund' nerve as it connects the brain to the gut. It is the longest nerve in the body (branches out) and is responsible for the parasympathetic response.
When talking about the importance of breathing, whether during your yoga practice or off the mat, rarely do we really know or understand why it is so powerful and important. That is why I wanted to introduce you more in depth to the Vagus Nerve, as it is stimulated by deep breathing as it also communicates with the diaphragm. The Vagus Nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and the longest nerve of our Autonomic Nervous System. It connects the brain to the gut and send anti-inflammatory signals to the body. It is responsible for your parasympathetic response (rest & digest) as opposed to your sympathetic response (fight or flight).
“We talk about increasing your Vagal Tone as a means to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, therefore putting you in a state of relaxation. There are many ways to stimulate the Vagus Nerve and therefore increase the Vagal Tone through controlled breathing exercises as well as humming or singing”
Ever heard the famous AUMmmm sound at the start or end of yoga classes? OR all the chanting. This is more that just funny noises, through the vibrations you can actively stimulate your Vagus Nerve. Try humming now and place a hand at the back of the neck and feel it resonate. You vagus nerve is connected to vocal cords and muscles at the back of your throat.
Yin / Yang Balance
Apart from singing and chanting we use our breath for many things and we breathe automatically without controlling it. Yet if we control our inhales and exhales, we can trigger specific responses in our body. Think of our Yin/Yang energy Yin is associated to soft and Yang to strength. Yin as we exhale and reduce our heart rate and Yang as we inhale and increase our heart rate. This has an impact on our HRV (Heart Rate Variability), where you don't want a monotonous heart beat, contrary to popular belief! High variability denotes a healthy and toned nervous system!