Another proven reason Ayurvedic head massage gives us a true mental break
I am fascinated, intrigued and excited to explore and share more benefits of receiving an Ayurvedic Head Massage. A plethora of deeper clinical studies reveal the positive effects of stimulating the longest nerve in your body, which starts right in the head. The Vagus Nerve begins at the medulla of the brainstem, connecting your brain, running behind the ear in a vital circuit that links neck, heart, lungs and gut (including the intestines and stomach). The name itself is a tell-tale of the nature of this brilliant cranial nerve – the Latin word ‘vagus’ translates as “wanderer’ describing the way it meanders through the body to reach its multiple destinations and submit essential information back to the brain.
Your mind health is affected by the proper functioning of organs and systems beyond just the mental function and fitness of the brain. The Vagus nerve is a primary part of the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system (healing can only take place in relaxed, calm states. and in Ayurveda digestion is understood to be the root cause of our health).
While the sympathetic nervous system accelerates heart rate, constricts blood vessels, causes perspiration and raises blood pressure – all to prepare us for fight or flight, the parasympathetic nervous system regulates our breathing, relaxes our heart, and eases digestive function all of which can greatly impact your mental health.
What happens in Vagus…
“In 2010, researchers discovered a positive feedback loop between high vagal tone, positive emotions, and good physical health. In other words, the more you increase your vagal tone, the more your physical and mental health will improve, and vice versa”.
Vagal tone? This is the activity of the vagus nerve and how it functions in your body. Low vagal tone results in increased tension and stress, troubled digestion and short, sharp, shallow breathing.
High vagal tone results in slower calmer, more peaceful breathing, and a more relaxed response in your body after a stressful situation. This equals a considerably better quality of life with less anxiety.
If you think your vagal tone is low, don’t worry – you can simply improve it with some simple adjustments to your daily practice and by stimulating your vagus nerve with a head massage or simple self-massage techniques. This will give you the ability to more easily respond to the emotional, and physical stressors that can derail your overall mental health and wellbeing.
Benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve
- Reduces and relieves anxiety and depression
- Controls and balances heart rate and blood pressure
- Controls blood glucose
- Regulates appetite and increases absorption/detoxification
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves memory
- Reduces obsessive compulsive tendencies
- Reduces fibromyalgia
- Alleviates tinnitus
- Protects against Alzheimers
- Helps treat severe mental diseases
- Reduces migraines
- Improves kidney function
Other ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and increase vagal tone
1. Exposure to cold – cold plunges/cold showers (start at 30 seconds and go up to 90 seconds over time)/cold face splash/cold head dunking.
2. Slow, deep breathing practices/alternate nostril breathing – slow down to about 6 breaths per minute, breathe deeply from your diaphragm, expanding your belly gently with a relaxed long exhale.
3. Singing, chanting, humming – The vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat and is stimulated by being vocal! Sing it!
4. Gargling – this is an Ayurvedic practice that has been observed for centuries, try it! Just a few minutes a day with plain water.
5. Meditation – Research shows that meditation increases vagal tone and positive emotions, enhancing positive, kind feelings towards yourself. Om shanti peace!
6. Head Massage – it seems extremely worth it to spend some time daily massaging your neck, the medulla centred at the back of the head under the occipital ridge, sides of throat up to ear, behind your ears and also into the inside of the ear (not right into the inner ear) to stimulate the vagus nerve. Use a gentle Ayurvedic massage oil.
And beautiful friend, book yourself an Ayurvedic Head Massage or learn how to give a version of this beautiful practice to yourself and others. And if you want to protect your long-term mental health, consider incorporating some of these other daily practices to stimulate your vagus nerve to ensure your ongoing state of mind is a tranquil one.