As yoga teachers and dedicated practitioners we know that yoga is good for us. We feel better, look better, and are less likely to fly off the handle in stressful situations.

But what is it about yoga that makes us healthier and happier people? A recent medical study believes it’s found the secret to yoga’s therapeutic success; yoga practice increases vagal tone.

“Can they say ‘vagal tone’ in public like that?”

Don’t worry, vagal tone relates to the health and wellbeing of our vagus nerve. The long vagus nerve starts at in the brain and winds its way through the whole body helping to regulate our cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, and respiratory systems. The vagus nerve could be considered one of the body’s main supervisors.

Asana and pranayama tone our vagus function. This is because yoga purposely puts an optimal amount of stress on our system and then follows the stress with relaxation techniques. Compress, stretch, move, hold, effort, release…this inherent pattern of yoga practice trains our system to deal with stress in healthier way.

Healthy vagal tone has been correlated with better overall health, while decreased vagal tone is related to a host of diseases including heart disease, chronic pain, lowered immune function and depression. Therefore it’s not a surprise that these conditions show significant improvement with yoga practice.

Over 500 medical studies have proven the positive effects of therapeutic yoga on a large range of disease conditions. If you’re interested in learning more about the specific ways yoga is being considered a complimentary healing modality click here.

Need some extra help reducing your own stress? Consider a yoga meditation retreat with Richard Miller.