The vagus nerve plays a central role in your emotional and physical health. The vagus nerve travels from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, enervating your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Therefore, any yoga practices that stimulate these areas of the body can improve the tone of the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve has a regulating effect on your body and mind, helping you regain balance if you are either ramped-up with anxiety or shut down with pain or fatigue.
You can learn how to regulate the functioning of your vagus nerve with these yoga techniques:
1. Diaphragmatic breathing – increases vagal tone and this can be accented by extending the length of the exhale to be longer than the inhale.
How To Do Diaphragmatic Breathing – YouTube
2. Body scan with progressive muscle relaxation – doing a scan of your body to identify where you are holding tension and then consciously releasing those areas of tension. (When short of time, focusing on releasing the tension around the eyes, face, jaw, and tops of the shoulder is especially helpful in to improve vagal tone).
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation – YouTube
3. Practicing yoga postures that open across your chest and throat – Examples: cow pose, shoulder extension stretch, sphynx pose, fish pose (active or supported)
4. Poses that release or stimulate the belly – Examples: cobra pose, prone lying over cushion, child’s pose with folded blanket connect to abdomen, back extension over bolster
5. Loving kindness meditation – this meditation helps to establish feelings of positive emotion and connection with others, as part of the social engagement properties of the vagus
Loving Kindness Mediation – YouTube