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Harnessing the Vagus Nerve


Article by Jason Racca,PT,DPT,CFMT,OCS

Photography by Canva

In today's fast-paced society, the constant presence of stress often leaves our nervous system on high alert, necessitating a deeper understanding of how to soothe and regulate our internal mechanisms. Central to this endeavor is the vagus nerve, an integral component of the parasympathetic nervous system, often dubbed the "rest, digest, and heal" network, which plays a pivotal role in managing our body's state of relaxation and recovery.

The Crucial Function of the Vagus Nerve

This nerve serves as the main conduit for inducing calm and managing inflammation within the body, orchestrating the relaxation response essential for counterbalancing stress. When we encounter stress or sustain an injury, our breathing patterns may become disrupted, leading to shallow, rapid breaths that exacerbate the body's stress response, a common issue that can result after injury, but often we can address this with holistic physical therapy.

Breathing: A Gateway to Vagal Activation

A simple yet profoundly effective strategy to engage the vagus nerve and foster tranquility is through focused breathing techniques. The 4-7-8 breathing method is particularly beneficial, encompassing the following steps:

  1. Inhalation: Perform a deep inhalation through the nose for 4 seconds, ensuring the breath expands throughout the ribcage and abdomen, beyond mere chest elevation.
  2. Retention: Hold the breath for 7 seconds, a brief interlude that permits full oxygen absorption and deceleration of the heart rate.
  3. Exhalation: Execute a slow exhalation through the mouth over 8 seconds, signaling the body to unwind and alleviate tension.

This method not only aids in pacifying the nervous system but also contributes to a myriad of health enhancements, from bolstering digestive functions to improving sleep quality, elements often explored in visceral manipulation therapy.

Integrating Breathing Exercises into Routine

Adopting this breathing exercise as a staple of your daily wellness practices can significantly alter your body's reaction to stress, yielding notable benefits in mental and physical health. Consistency and mindfulness are key, with an emphasis on incorporating these exercises into your regular self-care activities.

For individuals keen on exploring the intricate connections between our bodily systems and pursuing holistic health solutions, delving into practices centered around the vagus nerve and comprehensive nervous system care can offer transformative outcomes. Such approaches are representative of our approach to care here at R3 Physic in the Alliance/Keller.

We invite you to share your insights or inquiries regarding nervous system relaxation techniques and your experiences with holistic health practices. Whether you're seeking advice or wish to share your wellness journey, we encourage you to engage with us, as we collectively navigate the path to enhanced well-being.

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