Vagus in Latin means wandering and the vagus nerve is the body’s 10th cranial nerve. It runs from the brain down the body connecting with virtually all the organs from the larynx to the digestive tract. It helps regulate our breathing, our heart rate, blood pressure and digestive system. Even our voice and hearing.
The vagus nerve has a profound effect on the body helping calm us by engaging the parasympathetic (relaxation) part of our nervous system. It is interesting that until the research by Stephen Porges the vagus was almost like the forgotten nerve in the body which seems quite remarkable since it has such an effect on our everyday life.
In a medical environment the vagus nerve can be stimulated with mild pulses of electricity to help with epilepsy and major depression. However we can all stimulate the vagus in a healthy way using very simple everyday exercises without any medical intervention.
Modalities such as Hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and Yoga all help activate the relaxation ability of the vagus. When we are in relaxation with hypnosis we are helping to engage the part of the vagus nerve which can switch off the “Fight and Flight” response. This helps return mind and body to a state of safety. We then feel ready and comfortable to re-engage fully and naturally in our lives and with the people around us.
This is why Porges calls it the “social engagement” nerve. We don’t want to be stuck in our primal brain all day looking out for danger. Healthy communication engages our ”happy” body chemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin rather than adrenaline and cortisol.
Interestingly our voice can also change and develop a more relaxed and resonant frequency in this state. Working with clients in a therapy session I often hear the change and so can they. This change is important for our confidence and when our voice is resonating and relaxed this extra resonance will feed back to us and give us more confidence. Extremely valuable if we are giving a wedding speech or a work presentation.
Many people look for hypnosis for help giving a speech which is not surprising since it ranks as the number one phobia)
A toned vagus nerve will adjust our hearing to relax and filter out the “danger” frequencies so that we can “leave the jungle” response where we would need to be on constant alert. (No need to worry though, your “fight and flight” system will always switch on instantly if required) We just don’t want it switched on all the time.
We can easily tone or engage the vagus nerve by using such simple exercises as humming or singing, diaphragm breathing, yoga and dancing. Healthy and rewarding social relationships also contribute to our everyday life satisfaction and that is the vagus nerve at work.
If you would like to find out how you can use a few of these simple techniques there are short videos below.