My instincts woke up and kicked in during the pandemic isolation. In fact, they kind of screamed at me. My intuition yelling at me that this wasn't right.
We were all staying "safe", but we were all trapped inside, away. Not just away from stores and activities, but from each other. I felt suffering, and looked around, and listened to friends, and felt their suffering too.
Yet so many of us couldn't pinpoint why.
Although we were eating home cooked meals, staying away from germs, and exercising on our pelotons (trying to keep ourselves desperately healthy) I couldn't help but think this might be the most unhealthy thing the human race has done yet.
The unnaturalness of the isolation was palpable.
There had to be a scientific reason remaining isolated was causing health issues and making us feel unhinged, and I was determined to figure it out.
I couldn't be the only one who felt this was off.
As the universe would have it, I was discussing this very topic on a long distance call from Switzerland to Boston with a yoga instructor who was advising me on teacher training.
"Have you heard of the vagus nerve?", she asked me. In a few words she dove into it, and later sent me a link with more info. It all clicked.
Reading it, I thought to myself, why doesn't everyone know this?
The Vagus Nerve: This enormous nerve runs from the brainstem in your head down to the bottom of your torso. It's like a central highway that branches off to different exits all over your body.
It is nicknamed the "wandering nerve" because of how many different areas and systems of the body it touches.
There are 5 Major Things it Regulates:
It also plays a role in controlling mood and emotions.
So what does this mean and how do you make sure this nerve is activated?
Why It's Important to Stimulate it:
Much like working the glutes when you do squats, the vagus nerve is activated and stimulated when you have social interactions and conversations.
Running into a friend at the grocery store or going out for a girls (or boys) night is like a giant massage for your nervous system.
Have you ever noticed after having a 5 min conversation with someone you feel just a little more alive and energized?
Studies show that even just interacting with the cashier at checkout can increase your well being.
On the contrary, when this nerve is left unstimulated, because of it's connection to everything, the entire body suffers.
In terms of women's health, stress is the root of a lot of hormonal imbalance. So what easier way to manage our nervous systems, mental health, and redirect our hormones then prioritizing small moments of socialization throughout the day?
What if health is a chat with a friend just as much as it is a green smoothie?
Imagine if we all took a moment today to put our phones in our pockets, look around, and interact with a stranger.
There are so many missed opportunities when our head is buried in our phones and we are putting out "don't talk to me" energy. How powerful would it be to do the opposite? Chin up, chest open, shoulders back, willing to smile at anyone that looks in our direction.
Who would you meet? What types of conversations would you have? Where would those lead you?
Imagine the missed opportunities that are just waiting there for you. Imagine how different your body and your day would feel?
It's a simple exercise that everyone can do, with far reaching benefits.
It's little changes like this that I have personally made when my health was suffering, that have led me to believe that we all have the power to put our health in our own hands.
And if you feel like your nervous system could use even more love, the breath work we do in yoga is a another powerful way to massage and stimulate that beautiful vagus nerve. You can practice with me here.