I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot about the vagus nerve of late. From its association to stress, mental health and wellness to heart rate variability and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (and a related term called vagal tone), this nerve certainly seems to play an important role in our lives. For those of you newer to the vagus nerve, here are some interesting facts – it is a cranial nerve (number 10 of 12 cranial nerves, in fact) that originates in the medulla, and the name ‘vagus’ can be translated as ‘wandering’. It is called the wandering nerve because it influences the function of multiple organs (heart, lungs, and digestive tract to name a few), and it is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the body. The vagus nerve is a primary component of the parasympathetic branch (“rest and digest”) of our autonomic nervous system, as opposed to the sympathetic branch (“fight or flight”). Specifically, research suggests that stimulating the vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system; a ‘vagal brake’ if you will.
Polyvagal theory (‘poly’ meaning many) is a term used to describe the multiple associations between the vagus nerve and things like emotion regulation, social connection and our fear response ( Porges, 1995 ). This theory proposes an evolutionary model of how the vagal pathways respond to stressful and novel external stimuli. Essentially, it is proposed that there are two vagal systems that can behave differently: (i) a more primitive path that is shared with reptiles and amphibia which leads to fainting, freezing, or ‘playing dead’ when threatened so as to conserve metabolic resources; and (ii) a more evolved branch unique to mammals that is involved in self-soothing and calming behaviors in stressful situations. Each of these adaptive behavioral strategies are inhibitory in nature and thus, in line, with parasympathetic activation. And, given the evolutionary nature of this theory, it is thought that when the more evolved branch fails, the primitive branch takes over.
By now, you might be saying to yourself, “Okay, cool. But what does this have to do with yoga and the breath?” Interestingly, the wandering vagus nerve runs behind
By: Valerie Knopik
Title: Polyvagal Theory and the Breath
Sourced From: yogadigest.com/polyvagal-theory-and-the-breath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=polyvagal-theory-and-the-breath
Published Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2020 15:00:44 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…