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Nervous System Vagus Exercises for Better Sex


vagus exercises

The vagus nerve is finally getting the attention it deserves! In recent years, the topic of the vagus nerve has been circulating on social media, causing this nerve to be a part of the internet zeitgeist. But what is the vagal nerve, and how can you “activate” this nerve to improve your mental health and even your sex life?


What is the Vagus Nerve?


The literal translation of the word vagus means “wander,” which is parallel to how the nerves spread throughout the body. The vagus nerve, or the vagal nerve, is part of your autonomic nervous system, which helps regulate your body after a stressful event. The vagus nerve is the longest of the 12 cranial nerves paired in the back of your brain that branches off throughout your neck, heart, and abdominal organs. The vagal nerve has been akin to an information highway that connects the brain and bodily functions such as the body’s ability to control one’s mood, immune system response, digestion, heart rate, and even sexual arousal.


The vagus nerve is the primary nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system aids our body to “rest and digest” and conserve energy for bodily functions like digestion, decreasing inflammation, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and managing stress. You can think of the parasympathetic nervous system as the body’s breaks, allowing your body to stop and slow down.


On the contrary, the sympathetic nervous system activates our fight or flight response, sending blood rushing away from our gut and into our limbs to prepare us for danger. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it increases your heart rate and breathing and slows down digestion. The sympathetic nervous system helps us act quickly during stressful events, as if it’s the body’s gas pedal.


Understanding how the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems impact mental health is essential. Chronic stress, traumatic events, and childhood trauma can leave the body in a parasympathetic state even when in a safe environment, causing hypervigilance and keeping you in an alarmed state.


Activating the vagus nerve may allow the body to access the parasympathetic nervous system more readily. When bodies are in a parasympathetic response state, they can slow down, letting the nervous system rest, which is good news because it can allow you to feel safe exploring the world, engaging with others, relaxing, and creating emotional space for intimate connections.


Vagal Tone


Research has shown that our gut is like our “second brain” because of the vagal nerve’s impact on digestion and the enteric nervous system, which then sends signals to the brain. Swiss researchers have found that gut instincts significantly impacts vagal tone and fear response.


Vagal tone is how well the vagus nerve functions and strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system. By strengthening our vagal nerves, our body can leave fight-or-flight mode faster. Our vagal tone is associated with social bonding and our ability to be emotionally close to others. A good vagal tone means your body can return faster to a calm state after experiencing a stressful event.


Those with high vagal tone experience less depression, heart attacks, feelings of loneliness, and stroke. On the contrary, low vagal tone is associated with irritable bowel syndrome, neurological conditions, depression, anxiety, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.


Vagus Nerve And The Female Orgasm


Activating the vagal nerve can help increase your mental health and increase intimacy with others, and females can have better orgasms. A study conducted by psychiatrist R. Bou Khalil found that female orgasms were linked to the stimulation of the vagal nerve, thus increasing the release of oxytocin. Furthermore, research shows that the vagus nerve plays an essential role in vaginal orgasms when the cervix is stimulated.


Mark Sutton, sexuality coach, states “The vagus nerve also appears to help control fertility and orgasms in women by connecting to the cervix, uterus, and vagina, and women can actually experience orgasms simply from the vagus nerve.” As our vagus nerve is stimulated and leaves the sympathetic nervous system and enters into the parasympathetic nervous system, our body is better engaged for intimacy.


Arielle Schwartz, PhD, who is a clinical psychologist, discusses the importance of vagal tone in making a deeper connection with one’s body. After experiencing a traumatic event or chronic stress, it can lead to disembodiment, which makes it harder to become aroused or even trust one’s own body. Activating the vagal nerve can lead to a deeper connection between the mind and body. Attuning to one’s own body, you will slowly develop trust within yourself, allowing for your body to experience more pleasurable sensations.

Vagus Nerve Exercises for Great Sex


Activating the vagal nerve to promote your body’s parasympathetic state helps prepare your mind and body for intimacy. Some exercises can be done with yourself or with your partner to promote self-regulation and co-regulation. 


Deep breathing is one of the most accessible ways to activate the vagus nerve. Certain breathing exercises, such as taking long exhalations, helps to stimulate the vagus nerve and promote relaxation. Another breathing technique is to breathe through your nose for four seconds, then hold your breath for four seconds and exhale through your mouth using a whooshing sound for the count of eight. Incorporating meditation and yoga into your breathing practice can also be greatly beneficial.


This technique can be done by yourself or with your partner while facing one another, holding hands, and trying to sink your breath together. Working with the breath mediates the communication between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Deep breathing and slow inhales act as the bodies breaks to slow down and be more present with yourself and others.


Cold plunging is another way to activate the vagal nerve. Coldwater immersion activates the vagus nerve by first activating the stress response, and for your body to return to its normal temperature, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system by way of the vagal nerve. While you might not have access to a cold plunge, a cold shower will suffice. Test the water on the coldest setting for 10-20 seconds and allow your body to adjust to the temperature.


Because the vagus nerve passes through the neck, activating the vocal cords can help to stimulate the vagus nerve. Techniques such as singing, humming, and gargling activate the relaxation response. The vocal cords can be activated solely or during tantara with a partner. Other techniques, such as massaging the shoulders, earlobes, and the skull base, activate the relaxation response. Including erotic massages as foreplay is a great way for you and your partner to co-regulate and prepare each other’s bodies for intimacy.


If you are looking for a device to activate the vagal nerve, there is an FDA-approved vagus nerve stimulator (VNS). The VNS acts like a pacemaker, sending slight pulses of electrical energy to your brainstem through the vagus nerve in your neck. This device is accessible through your healthcare provider but only if you are experiencing treatment-resistant depression or treatment-resistant epilepsy.


The vagal nerve is essential in increasing your mental health, can come with overall health benefits, and your ability to be intimate with ourselves and others. If you experience a disconnection between your mind and body, the toning the vagus nerve can allow your body to enter into a parasympathetic state. Learning how to use healthy coping techniques to destress and activate the vagal nerve will make us more interconnected with others, thus leading to deeper intimacy.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Brooke Brownlee, APCC is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor at Modern Intimacy under the supervision of Dr. Kate Balestrieri. Brooke is passionate about helping clients heal from trauma, feel more empowered sexually, and repair relationships. Brooke is continuing her education and working towards becoming a Certified Sex Therapist.



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