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The human body has always fascinated me. It is so complex and amazing. My passion is to understand its many special super powers and to help not only myself but my students with their stress and overall health. Really isn't that what we all aim to comprehend and strive towards, living a healthy life. In my eager pursuit to learn more I came across some interesting information.

FACT: the Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in the human body.

This nerve is known as the “wonder nerve” because it plays a crucial role in our wellbeing. It is called “vagus” because it wanders like a vagabond. It starts in the brain, as the 10th cranial nerve, this bundle of nerves circles your digestive system and connects directly to every organ. Doctor’s even track vagal tone to determine risk factors for recurrent heart attacks. Amongst the many benefits of regulating our Nervous system, stimulating the vagus nerve can help relieve digestive issues, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, as well as inflammatory conditions. Before I explain how we can stimulate the vagal tone, it is important to learn a little more about this amazing life altering nerve. This nerve is a fundamental component of the parasympathetic nervous system also known as the “rest and digest” system. This branch of the nervous system is largely responsible for regulating several compartments at rest. The vagus nerve controls or contributes to a lot of the things the body does automatically such as, helping you breath,controlling your heart rate, keeping blood pressure stable, activating your immune system, and it communicates between your brain and gut. We know we live quite a bit of our lives on high alert, the fight, flight and freeze response, from the demands of work and finances or stresses of relationships, as well as health concerns.

Learning a few simple ways to service our vagal tone can literally switch us from the fight, flight and freeze to the rest and digest system. What is vagal tone? Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart rate variability alongside your breath rate. When we take an inhale our heart rate speeds up a little and when you exhale it slows down. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart rate and exhalation heart rate, the higher the vagal tone, which means you relax faster. After exercise the quicker you recover your breath is a good indicator of stronger vagal tone. The benefits of this is reducing diabetes risk, strokes and cardiovascular disease, better moods, less anxiety and more stress resilience. We can stimulate our vagal tone with these techniques:

● Practicing mediation ● Receiving a massage specifically to the feet and neck area, around the carotid sinus (where you take your pulse) ● Singing, humming or chanting and even gargling (through vibration in the throat) ● Laughter ● Taking cold showers or splashing yourself with cold water. ● Yoga ● Breathwork (long slow diaphragmatic breaths)

The amazing work of the vagus nerve should not be underestimated. Scientific studies are only confirming that the vagus nerve has potential for being a very effective tool to improve the lives of people. Helping us understand that the human body and our nerves can heal itself. The fact that doing any of these simple techniques above can relax us and benefit the whole body, by adding these to our daily routine, like singing in the car or shower, watching some comedy to get a great laugh, enjoying a great yoga class and just pausing to take some deep breaths, can be magical to our system.

The human body is amazing and we have the ability to help improve our overall health and well being. Try it out you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

Rachel xo

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