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What Has Chanting OM Got To Do With Your Health?

Many years ago, when I was not even at the proper beginning of my own health movement journey, but rather "tinkering on the periphery", taking an occasional Yoga class, I recall struggling with the concept of “better breathing”. I used to think that it was a bit of a waste of time - I would rather be doing floor exercises than spend time trying different types of breathing. A bit like chanting Om, not something I bought into back then.


How things change.


Since going into this as my passionately-chosen line of work, as I delved deeper into anatomy and neurology, I moved forwards in my understanding of these matters. Massively forwards, I would like to think!


I now know, for instance, that the ancient meditative practice of chanting is a way to stimulate the vagus nerve and bring about greater calm to the body and mind. Here is a research paper that demonstrates this if you’d like to read up a bit more:



So, vagus nerve… if you are not familiar with it, it is the ultimate body-mind, brain-gut axis superhighway.


It is one of the longest and most important nerves in the body. It runs from our brain, to our face - controlling functions such as pupil dilation and salivation, innervating our vocal chords and controls voice production and swallowing.


Then, it goes through the neck and the torso, to multiple internal organs, regulating their function.


As the vagus nerve passes just behind some neck muscles at the front of the neck, tightness in the neck can put pressure on the nerve, making it less efficient and potentially interfering with its ability to transmit signals effectively.


Keeping the muscles in the neck elastic, strong and healthy, with a good range of motion for the head, can have a beneficial impact to our health.



Vagus nerve nervous system
Vagus nerve

And that includes improving our breathing mechanics - so that the neck is not tightnening with breath every single time we breathe, and the shoulders do not lift up and down with breathing.


Here are some other key responsibilities of this nerve.


It is a major component of our nervous system, responsible for promoting the "rest and digest" state in the body - the opposite to “fight or flight”. It helps regulate multiple key bodily functions - including our ability to pass water!


The vagus nerve influences heart rate and heart rhythm. Stimulation of the vagus nerve can slow down heart rate, while inhibition can increase it.


It plays a key role in regulating digestion by stimulating the production of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile. It also helps facilitate the movement of food through the digestive tract.


It helps regulate breathing by sending signals to the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. It is involved in controlling the depth and rate of breathing.


And further, recent research has shown that the vagus nerve also plays a role in regulating inflammation in the body. Stimulation of the vagus nerve has been explored as a potential treatment for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.


Can you see that getting the nervous system into good balance, the vagus nerve in good shape, and breathing optimised, can lead to deep long-lasting health benefits?


In my classes and 1-1 sessions, we pay a lot of attention to head and neck movements and to the overall health of the nervous system. And chanting OM at home as part of your practice, if this is something that appeals, can also a benefit, alongside everything else you are already doing :)


To your health

Kaye

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