Calming the vagal nerve, oh, my goodness, a picture does say a thousand words. A quick glance at the photo below reveals the many organs affected by the vagus nerve. Balancing your vagal pathway is integral to creating harmony and getting out of “fight or flight” mode.
“The vagus nerve is known as the “wandering nerve” because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen touching your heart and most major organs along the way.” 1
I have a new client that’s in my practice who is a retired pathologist. And I asked him just point blank, why are the doctors not talking about the vagal nerve? I mean it is responsible for all of the function of every single major organ in the entire body. Don’t you think we should be talking about it? His response which was quite jovial, was that you can’t see it underneath a microscope nor can you really measure it in the way that Western medicine loves to do. He said that’s why we leave it to you in the healing arts, that’s your job. “The vagus nerve is also a key part of your parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. It influences your breathing, digestive function and heart rate, all of which can have a huge impact on your mental health.” 2
How to Calm Vagus Nerve
Is it impossible for you to Stimulate Your Own Vagus Nerve? It is always important to be part of your own healthcare through self-care.
There are medical devices that can be implanted to stimulate the vagus nerve. But for the average person, integrating a few easy techniques into your daily life can be transformative. Some suggestions for toning your vagal pathways are breathing exercises, yawning, cold exposure, cold showers, gargling, maintaining a strong gut with prebiotic & probiotic foods, laughing, socializing, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, positive self-talk, singing, humming, and chanting.
Try something that is easy for you to integrate into your daily routine like simply ending your shower with a cold-water rinse or any other of the choices above. My favorite is humming for 15 minutes a day, easy to do in the car or while washing your dishes.
“The craniosacral bodywork session Elizabeth did focusing on my vagus nerve was one of the most relaxing sessions I’ve ever experienced – I didn’t sleep, but rather just drifted in a timeless state with no worries at all for an entire hour. Afterwards I felt like I was back in my body, but in a much more relaxed way.” G.B. Healdsburg, CA
Vagal Nerve Massage
Craniosacral Bodywork is an easy way to drop into deep relaxation. Many people don’t realize how important it is to have all those head bones moving freely instead of being jammed in a frozen position from past injuries, dental work or accidents. Even if one doesn’t recall head injuries in your past, contemplate: how many children have you seen that haven’t hit their head? My first serious head injury was at 3 years old.
Conditions like head pain, neck pain, TMJ, sinus issues, whiplash, worry, and anxiety can be helped with craniosacral bodywork. In the last 25 years of manual therapy techniques, I have noticed the profound relaxation that is created via vagus nerve stimulation massage. I usually teach my clients how to massage their own suboccipital muscles and their sternocleidomastoid muscle, so they can work the muscles that stimulate the vagus nerve. It is very empowering!