Your inner internet
Inside you there is a wonderful, wandering vagus nerve
Within us all there is an ever ongoing flow of information to make our bodies work. We do not need to even think about it, it is all working automatically.
It is almost as if the body has its own internet for information to reach everywhere, to be gathered and spread.
When I first started hearing about the Vagus nerve I understood nothing and did not see the connections. Maybe you and I could do with a short introduction in the world of our nervous system?
We all have a central as well as a peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) consists of our brain and our spinal cord. The Peripheral nervous system consists of cranial nerves and spinal nerves, named after where they origin. The purpose of the nervous system is to collect and deliver information so that all our body parts can work. It also controls our senses and makes it possible for us to remember.
All the functions are working automatically need a smooth way of communicating the information to the brain where it is interpreted and signals for actions are sent out.
The wanderer = Vagus
The cranial- and spinal nerves of our peripheral nervous system all have different tasks and areas of expertise. The Vagus nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves and it originitanes from our brain stem. It is called the X nerve as in the tenth out of twelve and is the longest nerve in our system. It is called the wanderer due to its many different paths and squirming "arms". The Vagus Nerve makes its way to most of our body's crucial organs, such as heart, lungs and all our intestinal organs (except the kidney and adrenal gland) to collect information, send it to the brain and get signals for action in return. It is utterly important for our wellbeing that this communication works without "lagging". The brain and the heart are constantly communcating with each other to make sure that balance is kept. Approximately 80% of the Vagus nerves efforts goes into collecting current situation reports and 20% of sending out orders of action.
In its constant communication with the brain, the Vagus nerve and the brain solves problems in your body, creates balance and makes it possible for you to recover and relax. The nerve is an important, if not the most important, part of our parasympathetic nervous system, the rest & digest system. It is also crucial for our immune system to be in order. For example it initiates healing through the regeneration of cells.
If you imagine our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) giving us external information, then our Vagus nerve has the role of giving us information about our inner state. When you think about it, this inner internet could be the gut feeling that we talk about? Already in 2001 an article in Trends in Neuroscience was published on this subject, author Aniko Zagon. There are a lot of articles regarding the Vagus nerve and some tell us about the possibility of stimulating the Vagus nerve and cure diseases that affect heart, indigestion, chronic pain and even epilepsy. It seems like more and more, it is coming into our knowledge that the Vagus nerve has a huge impact on our wellbeing!
The more I read and learn about this wanderer in our body I realize its importance. But if it is out of our control and willpower, what can I do then? Is it possible to measure the state of our Vagus Nerve and its function?
Heart Rate Variability - HRV
HRV is a measurement of the variation in time (milliseconds) of your heartbeats. It shows how your body is balancing your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), that is the balance between your fight & flight system (sympathetic) and your rest & digest system (Parasympathetic). High HRV-rate shows a well balanced autonomic nervous system and you react soundly to outer and inner stimuli. To follow your HRV rate should always be on your own terms and only compared to your own ups and downs. It is highland individual which rate is the optimal for you.
High HRV is associated with an active rest & digest system, a good physical condition, good sleep and swift recovery when exercising.
Low HRV is associated with an active fight & flight, stress (both good and bad stress), sickness, trouble sleeping and overtraining.
Maybe you have got an Apple Watch? Or some other device for tracking your training? If so, it could be possible for you to monitor your HRV. Personally I do not have a device to measure my HRV (yet), but as in doing Sensing Yoga we give our Vagus Nerve room to do its work, enhance our rest & digest functions and make sure that the information can flow more easily in our body it would be very interesting to track this. Also it could help you (and me) to understand ourselves better, to "translate" what our body is trying to tell us and help us make better choices in our lives.
To give the Vagus Nerve the best circumstances possible
Every part and everything in our body is connected as one. A huge network of quirky, amazing cells, tissues and organs that makes it possible for us to live and enjoy life.
From my own experience I know how easy it is to get caught up in the fast pace of living in our time. In the demands, the musts we think exist and how easy you find yourself stressing all the time = fight and flight. The result of getting into this carousel of stress is sickness, physical, psychological or both.
So let us cool down, breathe, exchange the word must for want to and experience how your body responds by slowing down your heartrate and you landing in your body. And if you have the possibility to actually measure your HRV long term it could help you understand what is good for you and what shows up as a higher HRV.
A good, fast WIFI is something that we all appreciate. If we see the Vagus nerve as our inner internet to achieve wellbeing physically as well as psychologically, wouldn´t it be worth a try?
In the previous Blogpost you will find 5 ways to stimulate your Vagus Nerve.
And you are so welcome to join my Sensing Yoga Online via Zoom! Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 5.15 pm GMT. SEK 75/class, or SEK 300/month.
I hope to see you, wish you all the best! A big yogahug/Petra