The Athlete's Way

Sweat and the biology of bliss

The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure

Stimulating your vagus nerve creates a neurobiological snowball effect that will give you grace under pressure in any stressful situation. In this entry I offer 8 habits that will stimulate your vagus nerve and promote healthy "vagal tone" which produces a calm, confident, and optimal state of mind and body for peak performance...and many other health benefits. Read More


Aikido is another great way to practice these principles.


Absolutely! I totally agree. Aikido is another great way to practice these principles. Thank you for the comment. Christopher Bergland


thank you for this fascinating article and useful suggestions - I am going to give them a try

Thank you anonymous

I'm glad this article was both fascinating and useful for you. Please, keep me posted! Thanks again, Christopher Bergland

vagal tone and heart rate variability

Very interesting article. I've been looking into vagal tone and heart rate variability (the heart's speeding up and slowing down as you breathe) as it relates to anxiety and have found the EmWave2 by Heart Math to be really helpful in training variability and controlling stress responses. It basically gives you feedback on how your emotional state is affecting your autonomic nervous system.

Calming down matters

Its so cool that there are more and more people out there, especially in America and the Western world, who are onto these deep, almost spiritual ways of self improvement. The East has been practicing these ways of calming down and meditating for thousands of years now. And it's good to see people thinking about how to calm down.

proximity to colon?

since the vagus never is"wandering" , i was wondering if it is close to the colon and the workings of my bowels. Several years ago, i suffered horrible panic attacks, several a day. I have noticed a first symptom is when my bowels feel funny, or move or need to move, then the heart races, i feel "out of body" and the roller coaster starts. i am controlling the anxiety successfully with meds, but i always wondered if the vagus nerve could have something to do with it. Nevertheless, i will have a discussion with Mr. Vagus the next time i feel anxious!!! thanks.

vagus nerve

Absolutely can have a lot to do...I was havin g the same thing and finally found the forum below which made me consider how my posture and the fullness of my stomach with air or food impacted it.
I found if I burped when the feeling came on or stood up straight the feeling passed.Check it out. The cardiologist I saw didnt even know about it all - so we need to educate drs on this as it is a missed diagnosis often! Please email me if you or anyone reading this notices any changes around that as she suggested i write an article on this so am interested in collecting peoples stories. My email is

I certainly felt the anxiety triggered the feelings even more, interfering with my vagal tone. As soon as I understood i had control based on taking pressure off the stomach area - it all went away.

Vagus Nerve Stimulator

I have Epilepsy, and I have the VNS implanted. In a matter of 24 hours life as I knew it ceased to exist. I went from a migraine headache to a swelled brain in the right and left temporal lobes. This is turn left me with amnesia, and then left scars on my brain. This left me with simple, complex, partial seizures commonly known as Epilepsy. Epilepsy brought on depression, and depression brought on alcoholism. I had brain surgery to remove the focal point of my seizures on the right side of my brain. In Dec. of 2011 I had the VNS implanted. It took about a year to rewire and train my brain to feel emotion again. However when my brain started functioning like a normal brain does (with the occasional seizure) my life did a complete 180 degree turn. I went from a hopeless alcoholic with Epilepsy to just competing in my first Triathlon on Nov.30th of this year. For 7 years I could not feel any emotions because of the scars on my brain. VNS is now sending battery powered electricity to my brain every 3mins. So I CAN FEEL again!!!! I started running in that year too. They are onto something with VNS!! Everything you spoke about in the discussion is right on with what is going on in my life right now. I have never had an athletic bone in my body. When I was in high school I was voted most likely to be seen at a party! I was proud of this accomplishment too. Today at 41years old I have 16mos. clean and sober. I have ran a handful of 5Ks, Mudd Runs, Half marathon, paint runs, and a quarter mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile run triathlon. All just in the last 16mos. So you tell me, does vagal toning help? Oh Yes It Does!! I am living proof!! Oh the best part of it now too is I will always have the occasional seizures, but they no longer have me. I have the power now. With a swipe of my magnet over my pacemaker (I can my VNS my brain pacemaker), and seizure goes BYE BYE. Everything you mentioned about the benefits of the vagus nerve is right on to the transition my life has become.

Thank you for your comment Kara!

I apologize for a previous political rant on this page from a random stranger....I never delete comments but read it for the first time just now along with your note and did delete it. Argh...

Anyway, you can always reach me via Psychology Today. btw--I have a bunch of friends alos working with horse back riding and autism...Can't wait to catch up. Have a good weekend. Talk soon! Christopher Bergland.

vagus nerve

I had a bout of food poisoning and as I was vomiting (4th time) I went into afib. A second time I got sick, I went into afib after vomiting the first time.
Long story, but a second opinion cardiologist diagnosed me with vagal induced atrial fib. So yeah, nerve x or tenth cranial nerve can wreak havoc on the organs it wanders to and lands.
After this time, just about every organ it touched began to go downhill - fast. Stomach, hearing, bladder control, speech, throat, no gag reflex, hard to swallow, etc., it seemed I was falling apart.
I was able to see a functional Neurologist (out of pocket) and she gave me some exercises to wake up the vagus nerve. My parasympathetic nerves were virtually non-existent.

I'm much better, but it has been a long three years and I still have a few symptoms one of which is a stuck in my throat feeling.

Breathing some deep breaths now.

You have GERD

Thats why you've got all these symptoms. Look it up. Or search on GERD and vagus connection

vagus nerve also regulates immune responses, including inflammation

You went into shock from the poisoning probably. I wish doctors would read journals.

no I don't

yeah, so the doc told me, 'You have GERD, and your esophagus is being burnt to a crisp." He wanted me to go on meds, I refused asking to be tested first. Scope shows no GERD. PH is 6.7-7.1.
I researched it all.
Thanks for mentioning it, tho.

grammar errors reduce credibility

Well, author. You had me until you used it's instead of its. Credibility gone.

Naysayers have the gift of information

"Because anxiety is catching, I will remove myself from the vicinity of anyone who is negative, cynical or doubtful of my ability to hit-it-out-of-the-park in a high stakes situation. The vagus nerve picks up on people’s vibe. Of course, none of us like to be around high strung people, but it is particularly important when you need to have grace under pressure."

Or maybe you don't have grace under PRESSURE, you have good filters, good boundaries? Sounds like a lack of coping to me. I think this is oversensitivity and you're protecting yourself the only way you know how. Those naysayers have some good information if you will listen, but you can't hear them if you're surrounded by yes-men.


I would completely agree that filtering out people that you feel are anxious is filtering to cope. That negative person may have a lot to give from his experiences. There needs to be an element to being strong mentally and understanding all peoples emotions to handle very situation. I was very enthusiastic about the article, but this point was a bit disturbing to me as I am one of those anxious people, yet I believe learning to master your emotions by controlling the Vagal nerve with exercise, imagery, deep breathing, yoga all makes sense. Let's find a way to include everyone. Thanks for the article as it most for the most part very promising!


Interesting thanks...


Thanks Edmund! Glad you found it interesting. Have a good night, Christopher Bergland

Vagus nerve damage?

After I had my gallbladder (which probably didn't need to be removed) taken out, I developed or was told I had gastroparesis due to vagus nerve damage during surgery. Of course the surgeon didn't tell me that, and I have yet to find a doctor willing to help me find ways to help.. Not band aid pills that will make things worse ;) I'd like to know if there's a test to see if our vagus nerve was damaged? And what is it? I look forward to learning and looking more at the links and pages. Much appreciated.

test for vagus nerve damage

Hi Dona.

I found a functional doctor that specialized in neurology. She did general neurological tests and I had issues with some of the tests. There were various things she did that would get my parasympathetic nerves working to nudge the vagus nerve to do its thing.

I think a conventional neurologist would do the same examination or similar in nature. You do not always have to submit to the meds offered, but you can possibly get a diagnosis.


Libby, I WISH I could convince a doctor to get on board with this... do you know the specific names of the tests? Most doctors tell me there are NO tests to see if Vagus Nerve has been damaged... and I was told simply by my GI (ex!) that that is how I got gastroparesis, during my gallbladder being removed, it must have gotten nicked. I'm not the only one who this has been told there has to be something to it.. yet the GI wouldn't help me further. Kind of a bold statement to say....then not be able to help me back it up :(

nuero exams

It was more of nuero exams than testing. No lab tests, my apologies for the lack of clarity. My problem was not due to a possible injury from surgery.
My Functional Doc gave me a general nuerological examination and with my symptoms getting worse in different parts of my body, she landed on the vagus nerve as the primary problem.
Each organ and area the vagus nerve lands, I was beginning to see some symptoms. It started with the heart in atrial fib then hit my digestive process, the next was my throat area, over a short amount of time, the lungs, bladder, ears, etc. were giving me some problems.

Keep researching. If you can find a Functional Do who specializes in nuerology, that may be of help for you.

Take care.


I appreciate all of the info!

Be well!!

Brain Tumour had always been

Brain Tumour had always been a dreaded disease because the chances of recovery and patient living a healthy life after the treatment were low. But with the advancement in technology, brain tumour surgery is no more a dreaded disease. Not only the patient is fully treated, but can lead a healthy life after the brain tumour surgery.

Vagus Nerve

Interesting article. I was diagnosed with TIA and will definitely try this!
Thank you.


Thanks for a very interesting article.

Will just mention that Tai Chi too is a good practice with regards to the healthy function of the Vagus Nerve.

I have also found that relaxing as much as possible (i.e. isolating the muscles that are actually needed) during aerobic exercise (biking, rowing, swimming etc) immediately lowers the heart rate - at the same time as the result (distance covered) is enhanced.

In my experience, this principle plays into all aspects of life. There is only one balance point at all times.

Thanks again!

Dr. Stephen Porges - Polyvagal Theory

Great article! You and your readers might be interested in the Polyvagal Theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges.

His evolutionary model of the ANS is hierarchical based on 2 branches of the vagus nerve, one reptilian/ancient, the other mammalian/new.

So.... the ANS model has 3 levels:

Parasympathetic - Social Engagement (Safety) - New Vagus

Sympathetic - Arousal (possible danger)

Parasympathetic - Shutdown/Freeze (Life Threatening) - Old Vagus

Go crazy on Google and YouTube, you'll find a ton of info.

It all ties back to what you wrote about Christopher. Cool stuff!

Join the Resilience!

Vasovagal Syncope

I think that it is good practice to warn people about the possibility of fainting when utilising deep breaths. If you take a deep breath and push down toward your stomach you can get light headed because your heart has slowed down so much that it momentarily limits the blood to the brain. This can lead to fainting. It's not dangerous but it's good to expect it so you don't bump your head.

Vasovagal Syncope

Vasovagal Syncope is dangerous. Head injury is a major risk. Some people in gyms deliberately bait this, as it can also give one a big boost in blood pressure to help a lift. Unfortunately, that boost can rebound, and then you can fall down. Valsalva Maneuver is sometimes listed on gyms as a risky behavior they do not encourage.

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Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist.


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