Om and the Vagus Nerve

Om is frequently heard in many yoga classes or in meditation classes. When chanted, Om vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found in all things throughout nature. Hence, Om is known as the basic sound of the universe. 

 
Om is made up of three syllables: ‘A’, ‘U’, ’M’ and represents several sacred trinities:
  • the continuity of past, present and future. 
  • the masculine, feminine and neutral principles. 
  • speech (‘vak’), mind (‘manas’) and breath (‘prana’) 
  • the creator (Brahma), the maintainer (Vishnu) and the destroyer (Shiva).  
  • conditions of consciousness of the waking state, the dreaming state, and the deep sleep state.  
 
Hence, by chanting Om (AUM), we acknowledge our connection to nature and all other living beings. It represents the union of the mind, body, and the spirit.
 
Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve, extending from its origin in the brainstem through the neck and the thorax down to the abdomen. 
 
The vagus nerve innervates:
  1. Larynx and pharynx – responsible for the initiation of swallowing and phonation
  2. Heart – Vagus nerve ensures a resting heart rate of 60 – 80 beats per minute. If the vagus nerve was lesioned, the resting heart rate would be around 100 beats per minute
  3. Gastro-intestinal tract –  the vagus nerve stimulates smooth muscle contraction and glandular secretions in these organs. For example, in the stomach, the vagus nerve increases the rate of gastric emptying, and stimulates acid production
Function
The vagus nerve is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, by bringing these information of the inner organs, such as gut, liver, heart, and lungs to the brain. It is the main contributor of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to inhibit the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.  

It is shown that the chanting of “Om” can help to stimulate the vagus nerve which provides benefits for those with depression, anxiety and even those with high inflammatory markers which can be stress induced.

So the next time “Om” is chanted, think of the effects it can have in our whole body.. literally!

 

References:

Kalyani BG, Venkatasubramanian G, Arasappa R, et al. Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Int J Yoga. 2011;4(1):3-6. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.78171

Breit S, Kupferberg A, Rogler G, Hasler G. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:44. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044