Exploring The Vagus System: I

This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.  Thank you for reading.

Kirby Moore has experience with Craniosacral Therapy, Somatic Processing, Zapchen Somatics, Tibetan Buddhism and Process Oriented Bodywork among other modalities.  However he is not a licensed health practitioner.  Therefore kindly take the following words with a grain of salt.

In August, I am heading West for a few weeks to explore some graduate programs in Somatic Psychology.  That way I will know for certain that my intuitive hunches about where to attend grad school are accurate,  and I will be applying for the Fall of ’13.

I have been asked what I am planning to do in graduate school several times recently.  And you know, the more I work with the Vagus system, the more I am intrigued by all of its many possible ramifications.

So what is the Vagus system?  The Vagus nerve is the tenth of twelve paired cranial nerves. It extends out of the brain stem (medulla) and innervates many of the organs in the trunk.  The Vagus nerve affects the stomach, intestines, heart rate, sweating (the skin), the kidneys, the lungs and more.  It has a lot to do with parasympathetic, a.k.a. rest and digest, system activation.

This complex nerve and it’s associated systems is incredibly intriguing to me.  How is it that one nerve can affect digestion, respiration, speaking, cardiovascular activity and more?!  Does this seem like a system that should be getting studied extensively?  Thankfully I think it is starting to get the attention it deserves.  This is the nerve that sends info from the organs back to the brain – meaning it has a lot to do with the parasympathetic system.  The sympathetic system also known as fight or flight (or freeze) means the body is in cortisol / adrenaline mode, and the organs are pretty much turned off (at least this is the case with digestion).  So when we are calm and relaxed and safe, then the Vagus nerve is quite busy.  When we are stressed and “struggling to survive,” then the brain stem is doing most of the message sending as opposed to the organs doing so.  In other words, we want our Vagus nerve to be quite active in the way of having the major organs of the trunk sending messages up to the brain, meaning we are resting and digesting enough to think  clearly.  I say this phrase on purpose – that is when we are in fight or flight mode, the brain stem is acting to send “Danger!” signals to the rest of the brain (and body) and therefore the upper (higher brain functions) cortices are taking a back seat.  In other words, when the brain stem is relaxed and we feel safe, then we can think clearly (simultaneously the Vagus system will be functioningwell).

So how do I work with the Vagus system?

At this time, having worked with dozens of clients exclusively with the Vagus system material, I find this (Somatic Experience) modality to be the most potent and direct way to help a client drop into deep states of relaxation and embodiment.  Therefore I am most intrigued by this body of work.  The modality comes from the Kathy Kaine / Peter Levine lineage of trauma resolution work.

In addition to being intrigued, I am fascinated by all the potential connections which arise from my (limited) knowledge of alternative therapies and the human body.  For instance, the liver, in it’s production of histamines has quite the influence on allergies.  And we know the Vagus nerve has influence on the liver.  And it has some influence on the skin.  Therefore, could working to calm and resource the Vagus nerve also improve skin allergies?  And I believe this list of potential connections goes on.  The Vagus nerve innervates at least one muscle of the inner ear.  This may be a stretch but… Is it possible to start to treat tinnitus or vertigo by treating the Vagus system?  I wonder!  I’m curious and excited by this potent new direction.

And if nothing at all comes from these potential connections, I am still excited to learn more about anatomy and physiology in general, and about introducing emotional healing into the body (which in my less than ideally educated opinion leads to the healing work going deeper and sticking longer which of course is all to the higher good).  So onward I journey to learn more and hopefully to explore some yet to be discovered associations.

Thank you for reading.  Please keep in mind this was written purely to entertain or inform but in no way should anyone change their lifestyle significantly without first speaking with a licensed health practitioner.  Kirby Moore does not treat, prevent, cure or diagnose any disease.


Published by Kirby Moore

Kirby Moore is a healing facilitator based in the beautiful rolling hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. He does sessions in-person and long distance via Skype and Zoom, working with Spiritual Astrology, Somatic Experiencing, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and Birth Process Work. His healing work is informed by fifteen years of meditation and Qigong practice. He works with client's intentions and deepest longings to attain clear, tangible results. Contact him for more info at (email): kirby [at] mkirbymoore [dot] com

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