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9 Easy Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Mental Health

I view the vagus nerve as your soul nerve.

When your body (the vehicle in human design) is out of alignment with your true authentic self, it can lead to many physical, health, and relationship problems.

One thing I educate my coaching clients on is the importance of maintaining a healthy vagus nerve.

Many of them have never heard of it, but afterward, they are eager to incorporate the exercises I recommend in my program.

There are many vagus nerve exercises you can do, but today, I want to focus on nine that I think are helpful for women.

Adding just a few of these vagus nerve exercises into your daily routine can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Before we get into it, I’ll briefly discuss:

  • what the vagus nerve is
  • some factors involved in its dysfunction
vagus nerve photo

What Is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is a long, cranial nerve that extends from the brainstem to the abdomen.

It plays an important role in many bodily functions, including mental health, digestion, heart rate and immune response.

Scientists often refer to the vagus nerve as the “wandering nerve” because it meanders through the body.

Why Does Vagus Nerve Dysfunction Occur?

There are a few reasons vagus nerve dysfunction may occur.

One reason is that the nerve may become damaged. This can happen because of physical trauma, infection, or surgery.

Another reason for vagus nerve dysfunction is that a tumor or other growth may compress the nerve. Conditions like diabetes and certain autoimmune diseases may also lead to vagus nerve dysfunction.

9 Vagus Nerve Stimulation Exercises You Can Do From Home

girl doing camel pose

Exercise #1: Camel Pose

This pose is wonderful because not only does it help to improve the health of your spine, but it also helps to massage your vagus nerve.

This is a great pose to do first thing in the morning or before bedtime.

Some benefits of the camel pose:

  • It helps to improve blood flow to the brain and vagal tone by opening up the chest.
  • It helps to increase flexibility in the spine and shoulders.
  • It helps to strengthen the back muscles.

How to do camel pose:

-Start by kneeling on the ground, keeping your knees hip-width apart with your feet flat on the ground behind you.

-Place your hands behind you on your lower back and slowly arch your back as you look toward the ceiling.

-Stay in this position from anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute.

Exercise #2: Breath of Fire

This exercise is great for the vagus nerve because it helps to release tension in the neck and shoulders.

It also helps to improve circulation, increase energy levels, and can be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.

How to do breath of fire:

-Sit in a chair or on the floor.

-Keep your back straight while placing your hands on your stomach.

-Breathe in deeply through your nose so your stomach stretches like a balloon.

-Slowly blow out through your mouth while squeezing in your stomach.

-Repeat this three to five times for 30 seconds.

girl walking in woods

Exercise #3: Penguin Walk

Walking stimulates the vagus nerve as it sends signals from the brain to the muscles that help us move our arms and legs.

Some benefits of the Penguin Walk:

  • Improves balance
  • Improves coordination
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces anxiety

How to do the Penguin Walk:

-Start by standing on one leg with your arms at your sides.

-Raise your other leg off the ground and bend your knee so that your thigh is parallel to the ground.

-Next, slowly walk forward, keeping your raised leg bent at the knee. Be sure to keep your arms at your sides and focus on maintaining balance.

-When you reach the end of the room, turn around and walk back to the starting position.

-Repeat this exercise several times, switching legs each time.

Exercise #4: Respiratory Pause

The main reason the respiratory pause is so good for your vagal nerve is that it forces you to take deeper and slower breaths.

This is extremely beneficial because it helps to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which are both major risk factors for many types of health problems.

Some benefits of the respiratory pause:

  • calms the nervous system
  • promotes relaxation
  • increases blood flow to the brain

How to do the respiratory pause:

-Simply sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

-Take a deep breath in and then hold your breath for a few seconds.

-Exhale slowly and repeat the process.

You may find that the respiratory pause is challenging at first. But with practice, you’ll be able to hold your breath for longer periods of time.

Exercise #5: Carotid Sinus Massage

This exercise involves massaging the carotid sinus, which is a pressure point on either side of the neck.

The function of the carotid sinus is to help regulate blood pressure and heart rate.

You can do this exercise a few times each day.

How to do carotid sinus massage:

-Sit or stand in a comfortable position.

-Gently massage the carotid sinus with your fingers for about 30 seconds.

-Repeat on the other side of the neck.

girl stretching neck

Exercise #6: Sternocleidomastoid stretch

This stretch feels amazing and involves stretching the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is in the neck.

If you have drooping shoulders in part due to ankylosing spondylitis, regularly performing this exercise can help to strengthen your trapezius muscles.

Benefits of the sternocleidomastoid stretch:

  • Reduce neck pain
  • Relieve tension headaches

How to do sternocleidomastoid stretch

-Start by sitting in a comfortable position.

-Place your left hand on your left shoulder.

-Use your right hand and gently pull your head toward your right shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.

-Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

-Repeat on the other side.

Exercise #7: Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt helps to release tension in the lower back and ease sciatic nerve pain.

It also stretches the hip flexors, which can get tight from sitting too much.

How to do a pelvic tilt:

– Start by lying down on your back.

– Keep your feet flat on the floor.

– Squeeze your abdominal muscles while flattening your back against the floor.

– Stay in this position for three to five seconds.

– Release and relax your stomach muscles.

– Repeat for a minimum of five times.

woman performing supine hand to foot

(another variation of supine hand to foot)

Exercise #8: Supine Hand to Foot

This exercise improves vagal tone because it uses the breath to bring the body into a relaxed state.

How to do supine hand to foot:

– Lie on your back in a comfortable position.

– Place your feet flat on the floor.

– Reach your arms overhead and interlace your fingers.

– Gently pull your head and shoulders off the floor.

– Use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs off the floor. Keep your knees straight.

– Hold this position for five seconds.

– Release and relax your abdominal muscles.

– Repeat five times.

Exercise #9: Cat Pose

The cat pose exercise stimulates the vagus nerve by increasing blood flow to the head and neck.

How to do the cat pose:

– Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.

– Make sure your wrists are directly below your shoulders and your knees are directly below your hips.

– Round your back up toward the ceiling and tuck your chin toward your chest.

– Hold this position for five seconds.

– Release and relax your back muscles.

– Repeat five times.

Conclusion

While optimal vagal tone is imperative for keeping your body healthy and functioning properly, it’s especially crucial for those of us with chronic pain.

I hope you’ve found these exercises helpful in increasing blood flow to your brain and improving your vagal tone.

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns.

If you would like some information on how I can help coach you through my proven program tailored for pain management, I’d love to chat with you about how we could work together to improve your health and wellbeing.

Please contact me. I’d be happy to help!

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