Sometimes we refer to our instinctive wisdom as “gut feelings.” Maybe we don’t know why we feel the way we do or how we know the answer to a question. We just do. Some of us chalk it up to instinct or a sixth sense while others discount the phenomenon altogether. Could there be a scientific explanation? The answer may be the vagus nerve, a physical link to the mind-body connection.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve starts in the brain stem and goes all the way to the colon. It returns sensory information from the throat and the intestines to the brain. According to researchers, it is, in fact, the internal eye that connects the mind to the body.
How is the vagus nerve related to Yoga?
The vagus nerve literally activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the mechanism that controls involuntary actions and affects mood. Doctors sometimes implant vagus nerve stimulators into patients with treatment-resistant depression, but a Yoga practice can produce some of the same effects.
Researchers at U. C. Berkeley question whether the vagal nerve bundle is also the body’s center for compassion while alternative health practitioners more often associate it with the chakra system or Kundalini.
How does Yoga stimulate the vagus nerve?
• Asana (Poses)
We know that Yoga postures activate the parasympathetic nervous system by massaging the organs, improving circulation, relaxing muscles, and quieting the mind. They not only serve as moving meditations, but they also prepare the body for meditation during Corpse Pose.
• Pranayama (Controlled Yogic Breathing)
When we breathe deeply and slowly, we stimulate the vagus nerve. Although breathing is a part of poses and meditation, it is also a limb of Yoga in itself. Techniques range from simple to complex, but most are easily learned.
• Mantra (Chanting)
The vagus nerve controls physical functions in the throat, larynx, and ears – the area known as the throat chakra. (The vagus nerve may also be responsible for the proverbial “lump in the throat.”) Chanting or listening to chants energizes nerves in the throat area and releases blocked energy.
Imagine a pill proven to release neurotransmitters, promote feelings of good will, release tension, and improve health. We would be standing in line to buy it. Why not try Yoga instead?
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