What do anxiety, irritability, indigestion, and sleeplessness have in common?
If you said stress, you're on the right track. More specifically, they all result from a lack of Vagus activity. No, not that kind of Vegas. This kind of Vagus is absolutely essential to your health and well-being.
In this article, you'll learn why your Vagus nerve is so critical and how to activate it to calm your nerves, rest and digest better, and support your body's natural healing powers.
Your Vagus nerve connects your brain with your heart, gut, and all your internal organs. In fact, its influence is so pervasive that it has been called "the captain" of your parasympathetic nervous system-which is your body's natural relax, rebuild, and repair response team.
Proper functioning of your Vagus nerve keeps chronic inflammation in check, putting the brakes on all major diseases. It regulates your heart-beat, maximizing heart rate variability which is a major marker for heart health. And, it signals your lungs to breathe deeply, taking in the oxygen that renews your vital energy.
Your Vagus nerve also translates vital information from your gut to your brain, giving you gut instincts about what is beneficial or harmful for you. Then, it helps you consolidate memories, so you remember important information as well as your good intentions.
Finally, your Vagus nerve releases acetylcholine which counters the adrenaline and cortisol of your stress response, and activates your body's natural relaxation response, so that you can relax, rest, and let go.
So, now you have a picture of why activating your Vagus nerve is so critical.
The problem is that our current culture encourages us to be so hyper-busy, so hyper-stimulated, that we run in stress mode pretty much all the time, without even knowing it. We are so used to stimulation, that we do not know what true relaxation feet like, much less how to do it.
Instead of practicing a natural rhythm between activity and rest, we are hyper-active. And, we are so conditioned this way that we feel guilty if we're not always doing something or bored if we're not being stimulated and entertained!
As a result, anxiety, irritability, and sleeplessness are constant companions. This results us from resting deeply and sets us on the path for chronic illnesses, such as cancer.
So, how can we break this dangerous pattern?
Fortunately, your body is highly-resilient. It is just waiting for you to activate your natural balance-and that is as close as a few slow, deep breaths away.
When you breathe slowly and deeply, your Vagus nerve is activated. It sends calming signals that slow your brainwaves and heart-rate, and set in motion all the rest and repair mechanisms of your body's natural Relaxation Response.
So, slow deep breathing is vitally important. But, there's an issue. Living in constant stress mode promotes a pattern of restricted, rapid, shallow breathing.
So, slow deep breathing may take a little practice. Here's a great way to do that:
A Simple Deep Breathing Meditation:
Lie on your back and lightly close your eyes. Rest your hands, one on top of the other, on your lower abdomen.
As you inhale, allow your lower abdomen to gently rise, as if it is filling up with your breath. As you exhale, allow your lower abdomen to relax downwards, as if it is emptying out.
Settle into a nice easy rhythm, following your breath, as your abdomen gently rises and falls. See if it's possible not to force this to happen, but to just pay attention as it happens naturally, easily, effortlessly.
As you continue, see if you can notice the moment you begin to inhale and follow it all the way until you naturally pause. Then, notice the moment you begin to exhale and follow it all the way until it you naturally pause.
Enjoy this soothing rhythm for at least a few minutes-and then notice how good you feel.
If you can, go ahead and give this a try right now, so you experience it for yourself …
You can practice this simple deep breathing meditation once a day to release the stress of the day and the layers of tension accumulated from the past. You can do it lying in bed at night before sleep, to prepare your body to rest deeply.
In no time at all, you'll have reset your body's natural balance, and this will translate into living a more balanced, happy, and peaceful life.
Enjoy your practice!