The vagus nerve is being touted as the physiological root to well-being, happiness and good health. Getting stuck in a merry-go-round of worry is one possibility that you’re vagus nerve isn’t happy.
Let me start by saying this is not an ‘instant cure’ or anything like that. While miracles do happen, most healing revolves around the your body’s own natural restorative processes. Sometimes though, we can get off-kilter and techniques like this can make a big difference.
If you google for “vagus nerve”, you will quickly go down a rabbit hole of fascinating stuff. What is the vagus nerve and why should you care about it? In short, it’s known to control your sense of well-being. It helps control your heart, lungs, diaphragm and much of your digestive system.
The vagus nerve originates in your brain stem and wanders (both left and right branches) down through your torso, reaching as far south as your digestive organs.
If you often feel things like:
- muscles that never seem to truly relax
- chronic pain (or pain that comes and goes irregularly)
- trouble sleeping
- digestive issues
- shortness of breath
- general sense of dread or feeling stuck
- general sense of feeling un-well
…then there’s a good chance your vagus nerve is out of whack. Modern life, combined with “normal stress” (like forgetting your grandkid’s birthday) are part of why so many people struggle with a vagus nerve that isn’t happy. Then add a pandemic on top of that and well…yikes!
The good news is that your body is designed to re-balance the nervous system naturally. Things like sleeping at night, eating and eliminating food, yawning and spontaneous stretching are all signs that your vagus nerve is working and do it’s self-balancing magic.
But sometimes stress builds up and your nervous system may get ‘stuck’ and unable to fully re-set itself to health.
Without going into boring scientific details, I’ll just say there is already quite a bit of research on the vagus nerve. Yoga, meditation and tai chi are three body practices that have been studied to show strong benefit to supporting the vagus nerve.
While things like meditation and tai chi are good for the vagus nerve, they can take a long time to learn well enough to consistently benefit from, at the deep vagus nerve level.
So I was thrilled when in the summer of 2020, I discovered Kier Schumacher, a fellow bodyworker who has developed a new method for addressing the vagus nerve. It’s simple, easy to learn and can produce results fast.
If you’ve ever experience deep tissue bodywork or an intense yoga workout and felt good after, keep in mind that releasing the vagus nerve is a very different sensation. Not better or less than, just different. You’re addressing a nerve and it’s surrounding connective tissue, not muscles. Nerves do not need a whole lot of pressure and too much can sometimes backfire.
Think about yawning. Picture someone you know yawning, or picture yourself. Really picture it, like you’re right there. See yourself yawning. See yourself doing it again.
Did that make you yawn? If not, don’t worry, your body just wasn’t down for a yawn just yet! But if you did yawn, how does it feel?
A yawn is but one example of a vagus nerve ‘release’. It’s releasing tension and coming back to (or closer to) a state of neutral balance. A yawn is generally less intense than say the sensations from a strong yoga class or deep bodywork session, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.
Now the release that can come from the technique I am about to show you can run a gamut of sensations. It might feel like ‘nothing much happened’ (doesn’t mean that nothing did, you just might not be aware of it yet) or sometimes it can feel stronger (like the yawn) or on occasion an even stronger sensation.
This is a gentle release. Don’t force anything and follow my instructions and you’ll be golden.
Ready to try it? Follow along here:
Thank you Jason. Very interesting and potentially helpful. I will add this to my routines as suggested.
Hi Kathy – If you do try this, I wouldn’t suggest doing it more than once or twice a week. If you had access to lots of fancy testing, you would be more easily be able to tell the difference it makes (on paper at least), but since that’s not practical, the simple test of turning your head and eyes and noticing the difference can help show something tangible. And you get to feel the results rather than trust a number on a page. Even a small change is a very good sign that more balance has been restored to your vagus nerve.
Thank you Jason. Very interesting.
Thanks for the very timely video on the vagus nerve. I followed along and found I had a greater range of motion right and left. Just a bit but definitely there. Unfortunately I had my eyes closed on the 2nd pretest so I wasn’t standing 😕 I’ll be sure to try it standing next time so I can see how things might be different afterwards.
Hi Patti – you can certainly do the ‘roll-down’ test while seated, too. Just be sure to do it the same way pre- and post-test.
Hmm : ). Thanks, Jason.