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Breathe Your Way to Better Health: The Surprising Connection Between Yoga and the Vagus Nerve

Yoga has become an increasingly popular way to reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. One reason for this is the potential impact that yoga has on the vagus nerve, one of the most important nerves in the body. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between yoga and the vagus nerve and how yoga can help promote overall health and wellness.

What is the vagus nerve?

Vagus is derived from the Latin for "wandering" (think "vagabond"), so named because the vagus nerve wanders from the brain to the face, the thorax, to the abdomen, outflowing to the heart and the gastro-intestinal organs. It is the longest cranial nerve in the body and plays a vital role in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's rest and digest response. This nerve is responsible for regulating heart rate, breathing, digestion, and other important bodily functions. When the vagus nerve is functioning properly, it can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being.

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How does yoga help to stimulate the vagus nerve?

Research has shown that yoga can stimulate the vagus nerve, leading to improved health and well-being. In particular, yoga practices that involve deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation have been found to be particularly effective in stimulating the vagus nerve.

These practices help

  1. slow down breathing

  2. slow down the heart rate,

  3. reduce inflammation, and

  4. improve digestion, leading to an overall sense of calm and relaxation.

In addition to the physical benefits of yoga on the vagus nerve, there are also mental and emotional benefits.

Practicing yoga can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, promote better sleep, and improve overall mood. These benefits are likely due to the impact that yoga has on the nervous system and the vagus nerve.

Practises to stimulate the vagus nerve

To incorporate yoga into your routine to stimulate the vagus nerve, start with

  • practices that focus on deep breathing, such as pranayama. This can include practices like alternate nostril breathing or ujjayi breathing, or can be as simple as lengthening your outbreath.

  • You can also try yoga poses that help relax the body and mind, such as child's pose or savasana.

  • Chanting or mantras can stimulate the vagus nerve. If chanting is not your cup of tea, Brahmari, or humming breath, can have the same benefits - lengthening your outbreath and stimulating the vagus nerve through sound.

  • Yoga nidra can be a powerful way to send the body into a state of deep relaxed conscious awareness, again sending the body into the parasympathetic nervous state and stimulating the vagus nerve.

Yoga has the potential to stimulate the vagus nerve, leading to improved physical, mental, and emotional health. By incorporating yoga practices that focus on deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation, you can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being. So the next time you step onto your yoga mat, remember that you are not just improving your physical health, but also stimulating one of the most important nerves in your body!

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