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Unlocking the Secrets of the Vagus Nerve: Exploring the Polyvagal Theory in Hypnotherapy

The vagus nerve works as a key orchestrator in the human body, conducting an array of vital functions that happen beyond our conscious awareness. The ‘Vagal Nerve Theory’ theorised by Stephen Porges, an American psychologist has been gaining increasing attention as of late, for various reasons.

In this blog we will explore the world of the vagus nerve and the polyvagal theory, and how hypnotherapy could help improve vagal nerve tone, inviting you to discovery the power of the inner workings of your body and mind.

The Vagus Nerve: Unveiling the Master Regulator

Named after the Latin word for "wandering," The vagus nerve (also known as ‘cranial nerve X’) lives up to it’s name, in that it ‘wanders’ throughout the body, connecting different organs, including the heart, lungs, digestive system. This vast network is more than just a communication pathway for the mind and body; it also serves as a regulator of the autonomic nervous system, which controls autonomic processes in the body such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing.

The vagus nerve consists of two main pathways: the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic nervous system is the one which triggers the "fight or flight" response, which prepares the body physically to run from or to fight for it’s life, and is triggered by events that the mind perceives as life threatening.

The parasympathetic nervous system activates the "rest and digest" response, which propmotes relaxation, recovery, and overall balance and well-being. The vagus nerve plays a vital role in balancing these responses, ensuring that the body can navigate life’s stresses and challenges with resilience and adaptability.

Unraveling the Polyvagal Theory

Dr. Stephen Porges first introduced the Polyvagal Theory in 1994, and it is this theory which has revolutionized our understanding of the vagus nerve's influence on human behaviour, emotions, and social interactions. This theory explains that the vagus nerve operates hierarchically, in that it involves three specific responses that are linked to different levels of perceived safety. There is:

  1. The Social Engagement System: At the highest level of perceived safety, the vagus nerve supports the social engagement system. This involves the ability to connect with others, communicate effectively, and experience feelings of safety in social situations. A well-toned vagus nerve promotes facial expressions, vocal nuances, and emotional attunement, which are essential components of social bonding and communication.

  2. Parasympathetic Regulation: When a sense of safety is challenged, the vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic system to induce relaxation and restoration. This is the "rest and digest" response, allowing the body to recover from stressful situations, conserve energy, and promote healing and balance.

  3. Sympathetic Mobilization: In moments of perceived danger or threat, the vagus nerve triggers the sympathetic response for rapid response. The "fight or flight" reaction prepares the body to escape or fight in the ‘dangerous’ situation, increasing heart and breathing rate, pumping the body full of adrenlin and cortisol to promote a quick getaway.

Vagal tone” refers to the activity of the vagus nerve in that high vagal tone means high vagal activity. When we have high vagal tone, that means our parasympathetic nervous system is in control, which again allows us to feel more regulated.

When we have low vagal tone our vagus nerve struggles to adapt between the two nervous systems. This means that the nervous system is holding higher levels of stress.

Did you Know?

Several studies have found that people with ADHD and autism generally have lower vagal tone, meaning their nervous systems struggle to adapt to changes, and don’t have as much flexibility as someone who may be neurotypical.

The vagus nerve's impact on our physical and emotional well-being is profound, and the polyvagal theory demonstrates there is potential in consciously tapping into the vagal nerve and increasing vagal tone. By engaging in practices that promote relaxation, mindfulness, and self-awareness, you can cultivate a stronger connection with your vagus nerve, enabling it to function much better and improving your day-to-day experience.

Techniques that can help are: deep breathing and breathwork excercises, meditation, and guided hypnotherapy which can be a transformative journey. Laughing can also be an excellent tool to support vagal tone!

Improved vagal tone can also support gastrointestinal illnesses, various mental health difficulties, anxiety, cardiovascular function, and autoimmune conditions.

In conclusion, the vagus nerve's role in regulating our autonomic nervous system and its connection to the polyvagal theory have the potential for huge changes and improvements for people. By embracing practices that enhance vagal nerve tone, you can harness your body's innate ability to heal, restore balance, and cultivate resilience in the face of life's challenges.

So, are you interested on embarking on a journey of self-discovery? If you are interested in trying hypnotherapy as a way to support you in improving vagal tone and supporting a whole host of symptoms and presenting problems, contact me today to book in your Free Initial Consultation.

Tel: 07716050534


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