Everything you need to know about The Vagus Nerve


The Vagus is arguably the most important and certainly the most complex nerve in the human body. It came into prominence in the therapeutic field in recent years largely because of the ground-breaking Poly Vagal Theory developed by Stephen Porges. This theory radically changed the understanding how the body and mind work in conditions of safety, danger and life-threat. It forms the foundation of the contemporary comprehension of trauma and traumatization.

Known popularly for the Rest and Digest state instigated by Parasympathetic Nervous system, this wandering nerve has many more tricks up its many sleeves. The Vagus nerve controls everything from chewing muscles, the voice box, the throat, heart and breathing rate, digestion, instinctual behaviour and even blood flow to the brain. It’s central to emotion and emotional expression, voice intonation, attention spans, calm sates and active states when there is no danger, our gut feelings, the workings of digestion, making it all the way down to the bladder and reproductive organs.

The vast human capacity for communication and cooperation evolved in conjunction with the development of the Vagus nerve, or more correctly, the dorsal and ventral vagal networks. Pre-verbal infants rely almost solely on this nerve to communicate their needs and regulate arousal. While people with exceptional vagal tone make the best negotiators in crisis situations.

There is a growing body of evidence which shows that common medical conditions from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease are ameliorated by Vagus nerve stimulation. We also know that massage and yoga promote parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is vagal activity. Stimulation of pressure receptors buried beneath the surface of the skin increases vagal activity. The soothing tones of the human voice do the same as does extending the exhale when you breathe.

So if you work with touch, with breath or with the voice it’s worth getting to know the intricacies of this wonderous, wandering nerve. This series of 4 webinars will leave you with a full understanding of how to access the vagus nerve, to reduce pain and inflammation and increase a state of relaxation. 

“I have just finished watching the fourth in the series, finally caught up! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend live, but have greatly enjoyed the recordings. What a huge amount of anatomical information to digest, which is always stimulating, but enough images, demos and metaphors to help simplify. I will remember that boot on the hose! Thank you so much for bringing the Vagus to us in such technicolour and helping me to understand more about Polyvagal theory. I feel even more scope for working with the Vagus in CST now, and what better time.”

Part 1 – THE FACE 

Where the outside meets the inside, and the inside greets the outside 

The human race is a remarkably successful species. Our success relies on big brains, communication, and co-operation. The face and the throat play a key role in sophisticated communication, being responsible for both verbal and emotional language. In this webinar we will look at what happens behind the scenes, the neural network coordinated by the Vagus Nerve which animates the face and the throat. Also, the role the face plays in empathy, our ability to understand and share the feelings of others.


The motor arm of the social nervous system 

Webinar 2 features The Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges. As well as clarifying how our physiology works when we are safe, this theory defines the range of survival strategies open to us in dangerous and life-threatening situations. Porges identified the Social Engagement System, a neural subdivision which is neither fully autonomic nor fully voluntary in its function. Central to this system is the Vagus Nerve, it has two branches with distinct functions.  One branch supports facial expression, vocalization, vocal tone, swallowing, and head turning in synchrony with heart and respiratory rates and another branch which immobilizes the body for rest and recuperation but also when a serious threat is present. 


The sensory arm of the social nervous system

Webinar 3 addresses the role of the sensory input from the internal organs, in particular the gut and the heart. Changes that take place in our internal organs form the building blocks of our emotions. Sensory information conveyed by the Vagus nerve from the viscera to the brain is instrumental to our perception of danger and safety, and the resulting emotional responses and behaviours. This pathway is also crucial for empathy. Darwin noted the bi-directional flow along this vagal route in all higher mammals including humans.


The autonomic arm of the social nervous system

Webinar 4 focuses on the complex control of heart rate. The presentation will include vagal tone, heart rate variability, communication and pro-social behaviour. The aim is to shed light on the role of the vagal brake in homeostatic control of the ANS, the importance of good vagal tone for babies and infants as they learn to regulate their emotions, and vagal afferents – the link between sensory input from the gut and the heart. These elements determine how flexibly we can respond to a range of stressful and threatening conditions. This flexibility is compromised or lost when traumatization occurs.

Each of the webinars will have an experiential section and time for questions.

  • These workshops have already taken place. If you would like to access the recordings, 'Book Now' & details will be emailed to you on how to access this via your free School of Bodywork members account. 

  • Tutor:

    Katherine Ukleja

  • Fee:

    All 4 fantastic seminars for ONLY £110

    Usual price: £150

  • Please Note:

    These workshops have already taken place. If you would like to access the recordings, 'Book Now' & details will be emailed to you on how to access this via your free School of Bodywork members account. 

    By ordering the recording, you are agreeing to create a free School of Bodywork member account where you can access all 4 videos for a limited time of 30 days.

    Please look for your email to create your account after booking and remember to check your spam folder just in case.


“Thank you very much for your extremely informative series on the Vagus Nerve especially the very visual and detailed anatomical explanations! I really appreciate the time and effort that you put into your presentation, quite a feat to relay that much information. Thank you."

KU profile pic
Tutor: I have been a practitioner for 35 years and one of a small band of leading  international teachers of Craniosacral Therapy for the past 25 years, spreading the biodynamic model across Europe, the US and Australasia. I have a long association with a number of the leading schools of Craniosacral Therapy including, Karuna Institute, UK, Da-Sein Institute, Switzerland, Body Intelligence, International, Stillpoint and Heartwaves Healing Institute in the USA.
My entrée into the field of manual medicine was via massage and osteopathy. But it was Craniosacral Therapy that beguiled me. Here was a model that encompassed the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of the human condition. In the early 1990’s, it was my good fortune to pursue the study of craniosacral therapy under the inspiration guidance of Franklyn Sills at the Karuna Institute. Since then I have dedicated my work life to this exceptional healing modality. In the last two decades there has been a revolution in the understating of the trauma and its impact on all aspects of human health. I have studied with some of the leaders in the field of trauma resolution and have evolved touch skills specific to the treatment. Katherine Ukleja