Vagus Nerve Stimulation Dramatically Reduces Inflammation

Stimulating the vagus nerve reduces inflammation and the symptoms of arthritis according to this Psychology Today article (

Image of Vagal Nerve

Image source:

Experts and doctors say that stimulating the vagus nerve – which originates in the brainstem and extends all the way down to the tongue, vocal chords, heart, lungs, and other internal organs – is a quick and easy way to relieve stress and anxiety.

Unless you’re a yoga master, you cannot directly and consciously stimulate your vagus nerve. However, you can indirectly stimulate your vagus nerve to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.  The best tool for this is the breath. A growing body of research shows that slow mindful breathing can tame the Sympathetic activity and balance out the nervous system by activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).

The PSN is most active during the exhalationphase of your breathing. (Brown & Gerbarg, 2005) Slowprolonged exaltation during deep breathing exercise produces a relative increase in your PNS Brake.

Ways to activate the vagus nerve:

  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing

“The best practice is a complete breath which involves diaphragmatic breathing,” says Mladen Golubic, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine

The vagus nerve controls the parasympathetic activity of the heart, lungs, diaphragm, and digestive organs. Thus, interfacing with breath means interfacing with the vagus nerve and therefore the parasympathetic nervous system.

“The best part of these techniques is that they are effective, have no side effects, and they are free,” says Dr. Golubic.

  • Practicing Ujjayi breathing

Ujjayi breathing is the most understood pranayama in the neuroscientific literature.

Ujjayi breath (resistance breathing involving laryngeal contracture and partial closure of the glottis) increases intrathroracic pressure, baroreceptor stimulation, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and heart rate variability, while using breath holds with ujjayi breath increases PNS effects. Streeter (2012)

Ujjayi breath stimulation of the vagal efferent neurons induces a parasympathetic reduction in heart rate and most likely a withdrawal of sympathetic input to the heart. This restores energy in preparation for activity. A strong respiratory rhythm in the vagus nerve is set up (Brown 2014)

  • Practicing Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama) which activates your palate, throat and ears — the pathway of the vagus nerve and a method of response inhibition - a key executive control processes (Rajesh 2014)
  • Alternate nostril breathing
     A 2013 study clearly suggest that the yogic exercise of Alternate Nostril Breathing influences the parasympathetic nervous system significantly Sinha, et al (2013)

Every moment of your day is an opportunity to breathe consciously and modulate your nervous system, so you can live in the calm yet alert state of parasympathetic dominance.

 “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment", live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray

The Paradox of Change
Life is constant change, however, change can jerk us out of our comfort zone. We can also resist it to the point of making ourselves and others miserable or making ourselves sick. There are things we don't want to happen, but have to accept; things we don't want to know, but have to learn; people we can't live without, but have to let go. And some things we can get ready for only after they've already happened. The paradox of change is that change is constantly happening - we are powerless over the changes in life, yet we have the power to change, when we accept it and choose to change or are just allow ourselves to flow with change (Mindfulness helps us do that). If anything were possible, what would you most like to welcome into your life? What would that be like? How would it show up? What would you create the room, space, and possibility to show up? How would you show up? How would you change?
Anxiety Relief Without Medications?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). *** However, there can be relief from a source that may surprise you and it doesn't involve medications. ***
Our Brains on "Kirtan Kriya" Meditation

As I mentioned in "Our Brains on OM" individuals exploring yoga often are adverse to using mantras. Research validates that our brains prefer to stay with established neural networks because it uses less energy, even if it is not healthy for us. And we all have unhealthy stress habits.  It's just a part of everyday modern life.  And research shows our cognition and memory suffer. However mantras, and specific mantras can aid with building better resilience and regulation of the areas of the brain that can serve us and diminish the effects of stress and some of the health issues related to stress.

Would you like to increase cognitive function, achieve a 50% or greater improvement of overall mental health, have a 50% or greater reduction of depressive symptoms? A recent study showed that just a daily 12-minute Kirtan Kriya Meditation  can improve cognition and activate parts of the brain that are central to memory for the majority of the participants in the study. And it is even being explored if it can benefit with Alzheimer's Disease ( Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease).

Kirtan Kriya (which is pronounced KEER-tun KREE-a) is a type of meditation from the Kundalini yoga tradition and has been practiced for thousands of years.

Here are the steps for practicing Kirtan Kriya Matra Meditation:

The meditation consists of repeating sounds (or mantra) of "Saa", "Taa", "Naa", and "Maa" while using a hand gesture (mudra) with each sound.

1. Sit with your spine straight, your chin level and head straight. Close your eyes.

With each sound and gesture, imagine the sound flowing through the top of your head and out through the middle of your forehead (third eye).

2. For two minutes, sing the Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa sounds in your normal, with each exhalation; while adding the hand gestures (mudras) listed below. The mudras or finger positions are important in the Kirtan Kriya meditation.

The sequence is as follows:

  • On Saa, touch the index fingers of each hand to your thumbs.
  • On Taa, touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.
  • On Naa, touch your ring fingers to your thumbs.
  • On Maa, touch your little fingers to your thumbs.

3. For the next two minutes sing with a whisper

4. For the next four minutes, say the sound to your self silently.

5. The reverse the order, whispering for two minutes, then aloud for two minutes,

The total sequence is twelve minutes. To complete the meditation, inhale deeply, stretch with your hands above your head, then bring them down slowly in a steady sweeping motion as you exhale.

Clinical research has shown that practicing Kirtan Kriya for just 12 minutes a day can improve cognition and activate parts of the brain that are central to memory. Source: Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation

Also, it quiets the parietal lobe and brings symmetry to the thalamus and possibly structures the brain to experience the effect every day, even when we are not meditating.

The Kirtan Kriya meditation seems also to balance the hemispheres of the brain to create a sense of clarity and peace.


Kirtan Kriya Meditation: 12-Minute Brain Boost for Stressed-Out People

3 New Ways Kirtan Kriya Helps Keep Your Brain Sharp

Source for "Kirta Kriya Meditation Study" image (at top) slide 12 of "Moving Toward Wholeness: The Relationship Between Spiritual, Physical, and Mental Health"- Andrew Newburg M.D.


Keith Engelhardt A.S., B.A., MYT

"NeuroYoga" Zone ™
Transform the tyranny of stress to tranquility!

A better brain makes a better life
Reduce your stress, improve your brain, get stronger, healthier, more relaxed, and self-actualize!

10 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key factor in motivation, productivity, and focus.

If you want to be productive and get things done, here's a few ways to boost your dopamine levels.

1. Discover New Things. ...
2. List Down Your Small Tasks. ...
3. Listen To Music. ...
4. Increase Your Tyrosine. ...
5. Reduce Your Lipopolysaccharides. ...
6. Exercise Often. ...
7. Establish A Streak. ...
8. Take Dopamine Enhancing Supplements
9. Make Stuff
10. Meditate

There is a cautionary note for Introverts.


How Extroverts and Introverts respond to dopamine

We know that introvert + high stimulation = big dopamine release. And a big dopamine release is no bueno for introverts.

So, what works better for them? Acetylcholine.

Unlike dopamine—which causes excitement from external rewards—acetylcholine gives you a pleasurable feeling when you turn inward, and it’s happy juice for introverts. This is why introverts enjoy daydreaming; the happiness they get from pondering ideas is similar to the happiness extroverts get from a crowded room of people.

These chemical responses explain a lot of why different personality types prefer different activities.

An extrovert’s brain becomes more active in response to dopamine, so they get a thrill out of highly stimulating social situations like networking events and parties. The reward that triggers dopamine is meeting new people. The more extroverts socialize, the greater the pleasurable response in their brains. It drives them to be more outgoing.

But an introvert’s pleasure response is triggered by acetylcholine when they focus their thoughts inward.

Pro tip: one way introverts can trigger the acetylcholine in their brains at social gatherings is by engaging in meaningful conversations with just one or two people. Deeper, intimate discussions prompt people to focus on their thoughts and come up with insightful responses.

Nerd alert: Acetylcholine is also responsible for activating the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers the body to stay calm and conserve energy in stressful situations.



Keith Engelhardt A.S., B.A., MYT

"NeuroYoga" Zone ™
Transform the tyranny of stress to tranquility!
A better brain makes a better life
Reduce your stress, improve your brain, get stronger, healthier, more relaxed, and self-actualize!

How does your mind and brain begin the day?

Are they:

  • Frantically inventorying what needs to get done?
  • Hustling your body do get out the door and on with your day?
  • Anxious and worried about the events of life?
  • Focused on abundance or scarcity?
  • Or are they calm, relaxed and in the moment?
  • What we feed ourselves (body, mind, or spirit) in the morning are seeds that sprout during the day.
  • What are you sowing and cultivating each day?
  • What are the fruits of those daily seeds and are they stressful or fulfilling?

There are many days were I answer yes to one of more of these questions, or the answer to questions like "What am I sowing and cultivating each day?" are not what I would desire as optimal. It's part of being human and living in the modern world. It's also part of my awakening, even when I don't want to acknowledge these less than perfect answers to such self-reflective questions. My mind and ego do not want to admit that I am less than perfect.

However, when I am aware of these thoughts, emotions, and reactions and accept them as part of my human experience, they have less power and lead to transformation. I can also acknowledge that they exist in others and accept their imperfections as well. “Everything is your path to awakening" is an insight from Pema Chodron that seems to stick with me when I am troubled by my answers or reactions to the questions above.

The questions also serve as a nudge to consider and hopefully act in a more productive and positive way throughout my day. I can ask myself "What do I choose today?"

Free "How does your mind and brain begin the day?" printable poster at

Keith Engelhardt A.S., B.A.,MYT

"NeuroYoga" Zone ™
Transform the tyranny of stress to tranquility!
A better brain makes a better life
Reduce your stress, improve your brain, get stronger, healthier, more relaxed, and self-actualize!


Our Brains on "OM"
Recent neuroscience research demonstrates compelling reason to add Mantras to one's Yoga Practice. Neuroscience has validated the benefit of them. A 2011 study Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study validates the use of the commonly used mantra "OM". It quiets our brain's Default Mode Network. The DMN when left to wander can ruminate on negative thoughts, since the brain has a natural negative bias that generate Thalamic activity. The thalamus does not care if the stimulus is coming from the outside world or if it is from our own thoughts (thinking about your past, wondering about our future), it can stimulate our reactions and especially our stress reactions; and most of our stress can come from our own thoughts; especially our negative thoughts. Repeating simple mantra "OM" turns down this network, and neuroscience has validated the calming effect of mantras.
Want to take the guesswork out of meditation?

Meditation can be a challenge for any practitioner; beginner or experienced.

Rather than trying to guess whether your mind is relaxed, or rely on intuition or years of experience Get real-time feedback about your busy mind.

"NeuroYoga.Zone" ™ is proud to be affiliated with the makers of the Muse™ meditation headband. If you order it with the link provided here, you will receive a 15% discount on your purchase. Want to take the guesswork out of meditation? Get real-time feedback about your busy mind with the Muse™ meditation headband.


Image of Muse Meditation Headband Feedback

Real-time feedback of me thinking vs meditating while using the Muse™ meditation headband.

Could You Pass the 3 Minute Test?


Keith Engelhardt A.S., B.A., MYT

"NeuroYoga" Zone ™
Transform the tyranny of stress to tranquility!
A better brain makes a better life
Reduce your stress, improve your brain, get stronger, healthier, more relaxed, and self-actualize!

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