Exercise is something we’re told all the time is great for us both mentally and physically. It makes sense given the fact that it helps our bodies to stay healthy and active, and that the release of endorphins can help our minds. What you might not hear about as often however, is vagus nerve exercises and the many benefits that these types of exercises have to offer.
When you practice vagus nerve exercises, you end up stimulating the vagus nerve. A stimulated vagus nerve then offers tons of great outcomes. Whether it’s reducing depression and inflammation, or improving your personal relationships. There are tons of great reasons to stimulate the vagus nerve through vagus nerve exercises.
In today’s article we’re going to cover what some of those exercises are and then go a bit further into the many benefits that vagus nerve stimulation can provide. Let’s get started!
If you’re not familiar with the vagus nerve, then now is definitely the time to do so! The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, also known as the body's "super highway." It begins near the brain, extends behind the ear, and into virtually every major system in the body. It plays a significant role in many of the body's functions.
Since the vagus nerve extends to the major systems in the body, it plays a role in many of the body's major functions. For example, it carries signals to and from the digestive system (and other organs) to the brain.
Mental health is something that many of us have become more aware of in recent years, and it’s incredible that there’s now so many tools out there to help. Here’s some of the ways vagus nerve stimulation can benefit mental health.
VNS has been known to help those with treatment-resistant depression. It can help to influence brain wave patterns which in turn can reduce or even completely get rid of the symptoms associated with depression.
Since the vagus nerve is connected to tons of our major systems in our bodies, it has been known to affect emotional processing. When vagal tone is increased it helps to increase vagal signaling which can improve the mood.
The powers of vagus nerve stimulation are incredible as it can help to enhance memory consolidation. VNS increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, which helps to counterbalance the fight-or-flight stress response. This can reduce PTSD.
Now that you know a bit more about how vagus nerve stimulation can affect mental health, let’s get into some of the exercises you can try to experience VNS for yourself.
You might be familiar with regular yoga, but have you heard of the practice of SKY yoga? The long name for this type of yoga is Sudarshan Kriya yoga and it’s seen as a way to exercise vagal tone.
SKY yoga usually lasts about 45 minutes per session. Three different breathing methods are used at different paces with the final one being “om” chanting.
This type of yoga provides tons of different benefits such as better heart rate, increased relaxation, decreased blood pressure, and better sleep quality.
Any kind ofbreathing exercise is going to be great for improving vagal tone. However, box breathing is one technique that’s known to be effective. The idea is to take longer, deeper breaths and to really put intention behind them. This sends a signal to your brain that you’re safe which helps you to relax.
Focus on equal inhalation and exhalation to help create balance between the systems in your body. You should exhale all the air out of your lungs, then breathe in while you count to four. Hold your breath for a count of four and then exhale out the breath for a count of four. Repeat this between three and five times for best results!
Cold exposure is another thing you can do to help stimulate the vagus nerve. That means cold-water immersion is a great exercise you can do to experience the incredible benefits of VNS.
It works because the cold water shocks the sympathetic nervous system. This can help to ease your stress as the heart rate can slow along with the direct blood flow to your brain. For cold-water immersion exercises, you can dunk your face in cold water, apply a cold compress to the sides or front of your neck, or take a nice cold shower.
Is regular exercise a form of vagus nerve stimulation exercise? You bet it is! Especially when it comes to exercises that increase your heart rate. You can take a pilates class, go on a quick walk, lift weights, or even swim! Any type of cardio training is also going to be great for vagus nerve stimulation as it means you have to control your breathing.
As your body enters a more activated state, your vagus nerve enters into a calmer state. Always be sure to listen to your body and don’t go overboard when it comes to working out.
The last VNS exercise to try is three-part breathing. You’ll start by lying on your back and then slowly inhaling through your nose. As you inhale, focus on allowing the breath to move into your rib cage. At the very end of the inhale bring one last breath into your upper chest area.
Pause at the top of your inhale and then slowly let the breath out in the reverse order (from the chest, to the rib cage, and then finally from the belly). You should repeat this between two and three times for best results.
Exercising the vagus nerve comes with tons of different incredible benefits! Here’s some additional ones so you can really see what you have to look forward to.
As you stimulate the vagus nerve it ends up shifting the balance between your inflammatory and specialized anti-inflammatory molecules. This ultimately helps to reduce inflammation and can help you to feel a lot better overall.
If you’re someone who suffers from epileptic seizures then vagus nerve exercises might work great for you. It has a lot to do with the mild pulses of electrical energy that are delivered along the vagus nerve to the brain.
Your vagal tone is associated with your stress response which can be influenced in a number of ways. As you practice vagus nerve stimulating exercises your mood becomes better regulated and your mental health can improve overall.
When you’re more relaxed and better equipped to handle stressful situations your ability to interact with others only improves which means for better relationships in the long-term.
There are tons of great exercises to help stimulate the vagus nerve and enjoy all of its wonderful benefits. Another vagus nerve stimulation method we recommend is the Xen headphones by Neuvana.
The Xen headphones are avagus nerve stimulation device that allow you to experience the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation in a non-invasive way. Not to mention, this compact, portable, and rechargeable technology can be used just about anywhere!
If you have questions about Xen by Neuvana be sure tocheck out our handy FAQ page where we run through what it feels like to use the headphones, when to use them, and tons of other useful information.