Ear Massage for Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Research has shown that stimulating the vagus nerve can have a profound impact on our wellness. Stimulating the vagus nerve can help balance the autonomic nervous system, promoting parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) activity.

One way to stimulate the vagus nerve is through ear massage. When the vagus nerve is stimulated through ear massage, it can trigger a relaxation response in the body. This response is characterized by a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. It can also promote better digestion, reduce inflammation, and improve mood.

Ear massage involves applying gentle pressure, gentle pulling, and circular motions to specific points on ear. Key target areas include:

Tragus: The small, pointed projection in front of the ear canal.
Cymba Conchae: The upper part of the ear’s concha, which is the hollow next to the ear canal.
Ear Canal: The passage leading from the outer ear to the eardrum.

Massage each target area for 1-2 minutes, repeating the process several times if desired. Note that there is no wrong way to do this. Personally, I find a gentle pulling or tugging motion through the outer perimeter of the ear to feel relaxing.

You can perform ear massage once or twice daily, or as needed for relaxation and stress relief.

This is an easy and safe technique that you can do to leverage the therapeutic potential of vagus nerve stimulation.

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Yoga Techniques to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve plays a central role in your emotional and physical health. The vagus nerve travels from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, enervating your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Therefore, any yoga practices that stimulate these areas of the body can improve the tone of the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve has a regulating effect on your body and mind, helping you regain balance if you are either ramped-up with anxiety or shut down with pain or fatigue.

You can learn how to regulate the functioning of your vagus nerve with these yoga techniques:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing – increases vagal tone and this can be accented by extending the length of the exhale to be longer than the inhale.
How To Do Diaphragmatic Breathing – YouTube

2. Body scan with progressive muscle relaxation – doing a scan of your body to identify where you are holding tension and then consciously releasing those areas of tension. (When short of time, focusing on releasing the tension around the eyes, face, jaw, and tops of the shoulder is especially helpful in to improve vagal tone).
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation – YouTube

3. Practicing yoga postures that open across your chest and throat – Examples: cow pose, shoulder extension stretch, sphynx pose, fish pose (active or supported)

4. Poses that release or stimulate the belly – Examples: cobra pose, prone lying over cushion, child’s pose with folded blanket connect to abdomen, back extension over bolster

5. Loving kindness meditation – this meditation helps to establish feelings of positive emotion and connection with others, as part of the social engagement properties of the vagus
Loving Kindness Mediation – YouTube

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