Wake Up Your Vagus Nerve and Heal Your Body
Don’t Starve the Wanderer
The vagus nerve…have you heard of it? It is an amazing nerve, also known as “The Wanderer,” that connects our brain to our body. The nerve starts in the medulla oblongata (the portion of the brainstem that controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion and heart rate), branches up into the brain and goes through the jaw following the digestive tract, branching off at the lungs and heart and continuing down through to the esophagus, stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines.
“The Wanderer” loves food/energy and so it follows the entire digestive system while also receiving some of its nutrients from the different portions of the brain, the heart and the lungs in the form of what is called Prana (pure energy). The vagus nerve is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our relaxation responses. This nerve can become underdeveloped/deactivated if the body’s in a constant state of fight-or-flight due to the stress and anxiety that comes with living in today’s society. This keeps the sympathetic nervous system in survival overdrive: your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your heart rate increases and digestion becomes impaired.
In this particular case, “The Wanderer” is being starved of the essential nutrients it needs to help you survive. This can result in a whole host of chronic illnesses and impairments such as chronic fatigue, headaches, bruxism, breathing disorders (asthma), heartburn, I.B.S., chronic diarrhea or constipation; however, anyone can reactivate their vagus nerve with simple breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. These practices can signal your relaxation response and relieve stress in the area that is causing discomfort–resulting in a significant decrease in symptoms.
Another amazing fact about the vagus nerve is its connection to the seven chakras; these ganglions of nerves branch out to all of the seven centers of your body. It is my belief that this is the physical proof that chakras actually exist. You may have heard chakras being described more like Prana or Chi (which again, means “pure energy”) that store and circulate. That is the non-material energy of these physical centers.
Chakras have been described as spiral vortexes that are associated with different colors. These “vortexes” are in control of the different strengths and weaknesses which exist within your body, mind and soul. Meditating and breathing into these energy centers awakens the kundalini snake (another name for the vagus nerve), and will energize and heal your whole body.
Instead of starving “The Wanderer,” feed it with sattvic (pure) foods, deep conscious breathing, meditation and yoga in order to feed it the purest Prana possible.
Why Do We Sleep? For More Reasons Than You May Think
Most of us spend about a third of our lives asleep, despite not really having an answer to the question, ‘why do we sleep?’ Now neuroscientists are realizing that sleep is more important than previously thought. They’re also realizing that the worn-out platitude, “you can sleep when you die,” is terrible advice, as that day will undoubtedly come sooner if you short yourself on a good night’s sleep.
According to most contemporary research, you should be getting around seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and if you think you can get by on fewer than that, there’s a really good chance you’re fooling yourself.
Why is Sleep Important?
While the exact mechanisms of sleep are still being studied, neuroscientists including Matthew Walker have made interesting learnings about what happens when we deprive ourselves of sleep and the impacts sleep (or lack thereof) has on society as a whole.
When we’re awake, Walker says that essentially, we’re causing low-level brain damage. By this, he is referring to the build-up of the sticky, toxic junk in our brain known as beta-amyloid. This accumulation of beta-amyloid has been found to correspond with the onset of Alzheimer’s, among many other adverse health effects correlated with a lack of sleep.
Sleep is beneficial as more than just a healing function; it also replenishes spent resources and regulates hormone levels that dictate our appetite, cognitive function, and motor skills. The two hormones that dictate whether we are hungry or full, ghrelin and leptin, have been observed to flare up and down, respectively, when we’re sleep deprived. This inevitably leads to an increase in hunger, but even worse, it leads our bodies to crave unhealthy and fattening foods — those heavy on carbs and light on greens. In fact, people who run on four to five hours of sleep per night tend to eat 200-300 more calories per day.
For men, sleep is an important regulator of hormones, most notably testosterone. Sleep-deprived males can have the same virility and strength as a man 10 years their senior. For women, a lack of sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of breast cancer and drops in immune hormones.
According to Walker, just introducing a single night of just four hours of sleep among a normal eight-hour sleep schedule, can bring about a 70 percent drop in natural cancer-killing cells, the immune assassins that target malignant carcinogens. Every day our bodies produce these cells and others to fend off disease and maintain our health, and while a cat nap might make you feel refreshed, it won’t make up for the loss of these cells.