Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Autism by Stanley Rosenberg

On a path to improvement …

I picked up this book after an acquaintance commented that the exercises had helped them with some issues they had attributed to overstimulation of the vagus nerve.  I was intrigued. Sceptical, but intrigued. And so, I launched into the (new to me) polyvagal theory of Steven Porges which Stanley Rosenberg has drawn on to explain how cranial nerves (especially the vagus nerve) has a strong role in determining our psychological and emotional state. I read that if we understand the physiology of the autonomic nervous system and practice some simple exercises to restore proper vagal functioning, we can learn how to improve our emotional state within seconds.

‘Some of us might seek the assistance of a therapist, coach or teacher. The important thing is not what these health care professionals call their method, or what positive results they claim they can deliver, but whether or not their methods actually work for us.’

I read through Part One, with its detailed explanation of cranial nerves, the polyvagal theory and how craniosacral therapy can assist, read the case studies included, and turned to Part Two to tackle the exercises. Actually, I have only tackled the Basic Exercise because it is simple, I find it relaxing, and I can do it on my own. 

Does it work? Well, given that I am not actually trying these self-help exercises to help me with ‘Anxiety, Depression, Trauma or Autism’, I really cannot comment. I am wary of self-help exercises that make such claims. For myself, I find the Basic Exercise relaxing, and there are a number of YouTube videos demonstrating the technique for anyone interested (search for ‘Stanley Rosenberg Basic Exercise’).

And now, with my curiosity satisfied, I will return the book to the library.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith