Fitness Magazine

Understanding Vagal Tone

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge

by Bridget 

Understanding Vagal Tone

Normal Human Brain, Inferior View, Cranial Nerves
Patrick J. Lynch

There’s been a lot of talk lately about vagal tone and how yoga can help to maintain healthy vagus nerve function, in effect providing “high vagal tone.” (That’s a good thing.) It basically means that the body and brain function more resiliently under stress. It can even reduce allostatic load, which is the amount of stress accumulated over time.
If you took an anatomy and physiology class in college, you probably got an overview of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which breaks down into parasympathetic and sympathetic subsystems. The parasympathetic nervous system is sometimes called the “rest and digest” system—it keeps energy usage as low as possible while still maintaining vital activities such as digestion and elimination. One of the cranial nerves that supplies parasympathetic innervation is the vagus nerve (two of them, one on each side of the brain). They serve virtually every organ in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. This is why people with low vagal tone tend to have difficulties with digestion and with regulating heart rate.Whether or not any of that rings a bell, Nina breaks down the autonomic nervous system very clearly in her post Life-Changer: Understanding Your Autonomic Nervous System, and then she goes on to explain how to influence your ANS overall with yoga.Ram gets into more specific vagal tone levels and how they affect physical and psychological wellbeing in his post Vagal Tone and Yoga. He goes on to talk about Yoga Practices to Optimize Vagal Tone in yet another post.It’s been a crazy year for practically everyone—we all have different stressors, but we’ve all been affected. Finding ways to calm the body and the mind, to optimize our rest and digest time, and to boost our vagal tone might help us to become the “stable and robust” people that Ram describes in his post.

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