Deep breathing is being used as an alternative to pacemakers in stimulation of the Vagus Nerve venerated by neuroscientists as the most important nerve in the body, the Vagus (meaning wanderer) Nerve is responsible for the mind body connection. It reaches almost all of the important organs in the body- the brain, gut, heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, spleen, lungs, reproductive organs and even the tongue, influencing their functioning.
The Vagus Nerve can influence, in the brain, depression and anxiety; in the gut, digestive juice secretion; heart rate variability; blood glucose balance; bile production; kidney function; fertility in women; taste and saliva; but most of all, a sense of connectedness, mental and physical well-being, and even altruistic behaviour!
Stimulation of the vagus nerve is directly linked to your wellness. The better your vagal tone, the happier and healthier you are mentally and physically. Any practice that aids the stimulation of the vagus nerve, improves the body-mind connection since the vagus nerve is the physical representation of the link between body and mind. In this, simple techniques like deeper diaphragmatic breathing or Sudarshan Kriya yoga have been found to activate the vagus nerve, triggering over all happiness and well-being.
Deep, abdominal breathing is often used as an alternative to pacemakers in the stimulation of the Vagus Nerve. Pranayama, ancient Indian breathing techniques, are key processes through which we can use the breath for our health. Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has been found to have the same effect as that of an active Vagus Nerve. Along with the activation of the “Rest and Digest” (Parasympathetic) Nervous system, this powerful breathing technique can improve Prolactin (well-being hormone) secretion by 50%, increase time spent in deep sleep by 218% and has alleviated many around the world of depression, anxiety and stress.
Dr. Nisha Manikantan, globally renowned Ayurveda expert, bestselling author and Director of Art of Living's Sri Sri Ayurveda hospital shares a few simple and natural ways that you can incorporate in your day, including breathing, yoga and food. Take a look:
Start your day with the powerful breathing technique, bhastrika
- Bend your knees and sit on your hips
- Turn your hands into fists and bring them close to your shoulders
- As you breathe in, stretch your hands upwards and open your fists
- As you exhale, bring your hands down and close your palms into fists again
- This becomes one round. Do twenty such rounds. Do three cycles of twenty rounds each within a time interval of five minutes
- Sit down with your eyes closed and observe the flow of energy in your body
Yoga to strengthen your gut
Ustrasana is easy to do and helps in improving digestion, an essential for optimal Vagal Tone. Here’s how to do it:
- Kneel on the yoga mat and place your hands on the hips
- Your knees should be in line with the shoulders and the sole of your feet should be facing the ceiling
- As you inhale, draw in your tail-bone towards the pubis as if being pulled from the navel
- Simultaneously, arch your back and slide your palms over your feet till the arms are straight
- Do not strain or flex your neck but keep it in a neutral position
- Stay in this posture for a couple of breaths
- Breathe out and slowly come back to the initial pose. Withdraw your hands and bring them back to your hips as you straighten up
Vegan spread- Today’s delicious complement to chapatis
- 1 ¾ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2-3 cloves
- 2 tbsp dill leaves
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Soak sunflower seeds for 8 hours
- Blend all ingredients in a grinder until creamy
- Refrigerate for 1 hour to be firm
- Serve with bread/ chapatis or veggies
Chanting for a happy mind
A study published in the Scientific American found that memorizing ancient Sanskrit Mantras increase the size of the brain regions associated with cognitive function. A recent study at BITS Hyderabad, showed that people who chant/ listen to chants became more cheerful and calmer by the end of the study. One should chant for at least ten minutes and see the difference! You can also listen to chants for a peaceful mind.
Additional Tip: Splash your face with cold water for instant energy!
Inputs by: Dr Nisha Manikantan is a globally renowned Ayurveda expert, bestselling author and Director of Art of Living's Sri Sri Ayurveda hospital.
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