Get the Chill Without the Pill: The Vagus Nerve

Don’t you wish there was some magic ‘chill pill’ you could take when you’re feeling stressed and overworked? Something that would help you feel at peace, relaxed, and less stressed. You might be surprised to find out that you don’t need a magic pill, and there’s already something right in your own body that can do just that. All you have to do is stimulate the Vagus Nerve.

What is the Vagus nerve?
The Vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves, and plays a role in the heart, lungs and digestive tract. It innervates 3 primary zones and when stimulated helps you feel calm, relaxed and balance.

  • Zone 1: is above the collar bone or supraclavicular zone.
  • Zone 2: is the thoracic and rib cage zone which is located above the diaphragm.
  • Zone 3: is below the diaphragm and in the gut area, it’s called the subdiaphragmatic region.

Parts of the Vagus go into the diaphragm and can sense movement in the lungs. So, when you practice breathing techniques this is what helps trigger that relaxation response.
The Vagus nerve also innervates the heart, it can slow down the heart rate, as well as lower your blood pressure. In subdiaphragmatic zone the nerve tells your brain about what’s going on in the gut, when we experience stress or negative emotions this can lead to gut discomfort.

How can we stimulate the Vagus nerve to help us relax?
Deep breathing can help activate the Vagus nerve. Try slowing your breath by increasing the length of each inhale and exhale and take a small pause between each. As you focus on the slowed restful form of breathing you will find yourself becoming more relaxed.
Another way to help activate the relaxation response is through gentle massage or pressure in various parts of the body. You can use a soft ball such as Coregous or Fitball, to apply gentle pressure around the neck, rib cage and stomach. For more info on how to do this, check out our recent Facebook post.
While we have many different vices at the tips of our fingers to help us cope with stress, it’s nice to know there is something within our own body that aides in relaxation. Ditch the unhealthy habits and ask your trainer to help you de-stress and enhance relaxation in a healthy natural way.

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