And how can singing improve the functioning of this important master nerve?
Even if you haven’t heard of this 10th cranial nerve, which is the longest and most complex in the whole set of cranial nerves, maybe you’re curious about this master nerve that sends parasympathetic impulses from the brain through the face to the gut!
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the vagus nerve has the most extensive distribution of the cranial nerves. Its pharyngeal and laryngeal branches transmit motor impulses to the pharynx and larynx; its cardiac branches act to slow the rate of heartbeat; its bronchial branch acts to constrict the bronchi; and its esophageal branches control involuntary muscles in the esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, and small intestine, stimulating peristalsis and gastrointestinal secretions.”
In other words, for non-science geeks, the vagus is one busy nerve! It’s a modulator of the brain-gut axis…and as many of you know, the gut is thought to be a third brain.
What can throw vagus nerve functioning out of whack is, you guessed it, stress, which many of us have a lot of.
And what can tone and improve vagal response so that our hearts function properly, we have an appropriate response of feeling satisfied after eating, our hormonal systems function well, in addition to a whole lot of other mind/body benefits?
In extreme cases where there are co-factors of severe epilepsy or treatment-resistant depression, a device about the size of a matchbox inserted near the collarbone where it emits electric impulses to stimulate the vagus nerve.
But in non-extreme cases, you can sing. Hum. Chant. It’s that simple!
The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords and the muscles in the throat, and singing, humming and chanting activate these muscles and stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn regulates the heart rate more efficiently and improves vagal tone.
Just imagine, you can unlock all those healing benefits of toning your vagus nerve without medications or devices, just by singing a tune!