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Why is vagus nerve breathing so important for our health and our well-being?

In yoga, or in meditation, you may often wonder why we are guided to take slow, deep breaths and allow your body to reach with each exhale. What you may not realize is that these simple instructions are doing more than just slowing down your heart rate. In fact, you’re stimulating the vagus nerve, which signals to your body that it’s in a state of calm.

The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve” is a meandering nerve that stretches from the brain stem down to the colon, connecting to various parts of the body along the way, including the middle ear, vocal cords, heart, lungs, and intestines. As the longest and most complicated of the body’s 12 cranial nerves, the vagus nerve plays many roles, affecting our emotional states, heart rate, inflammation levels, blood pressure, and digestion.

But how does this affect our nervous system? The vagus nerve interacts with our autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for unconscious processes such as digestion and breathing. More specifically, the vagus nerve is an advocate for the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the body to “rest and digest”. This system helps us feel safe and connected, and the vagus nerve has a profound impact on our overall sense of well-being.

When we practice yoga and rewire our brains, we regulate our nervous systems through intention and breath, increasing our resilience to external stressors.

So, the next time you’re instructed to take slow, deep breaths, remember that you’re not just slowing down your heart rate – you’re also stimulating your vagus nerve and promoting a state of calm in your body.

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