Let’s talk about another vagus nerve hack, which is the auricular release, also known as an ear release, that you can do anytime anywhere to continually improve your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Please make sure to check out our other videos on how to assess your vagus nerve, the polyvagal theory, as well as many other vagus nerve hacks that you can incorporate into your life.
The fascinating thing about the auricular release is the external ear is one of the only places in the body that the vagus nerve is sending this peripheral branch to. In fact, the auricular branch surfaces as the afferent auricular vagus nerve, which means that the information from the periphery is going to the brain. Thereby, we are stimulating the ear from the periphery and signaling back to our nervous system to create this sense of calm.
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As the vagus nerve exits the medulla oblongata in the brainstem, it comes down into the jugular foramen. As it leaves the cervical vagus nerve, it branches out into this auricular branch of the vagus nerve. It also connects to the facial nerve, and therefore can promote relaxation of the facial muscles as well. It is also referred to as either the aldermen nerve or the Arnolds nerve.
How to Assess
Pull each ear slightly out to the side at the ear lobe, the middle of the ear, and the top of the ear. Assess to see which one feels more tense and/or which side feels more painful. Does it feel elastic or restricted?
How to Perform the Auricular Release
Place your finger right under the ridge inside of your ear. You want to think about pressing backward. Gently move your finger in slow, small circles. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort, although it may feel a little different side to side. Sometimes this will trigger a sigh, swallow, or yawn. That is a sign of relaxation of the nervous system. You should likely feel a sense of calm.
The second technique would be to come down almost as if you’re going to go into the eardrum with your finger. Gently press backward toward the back of your head, and perform slow, gentle circles. This could be done for one minute or as long as you feel like it is helping and it’s comfortable.
The third technique is performed by placing your finger on the skin behind your ear. You will gently pull the skin up towards the direction of your head, moving the skin over the tissue. This is a myofascial release. Hold until you feel a release. This could feel like your finger can move easier and the skin feels more elastic. It could also trigger a relaxation response. You can hold this for one minuet or longer if you find it to be beneficial.
The last technique is just gently pulling down on the ear lobe. This is considered a craniosacral technique, so it can have benefits for dizziness, headaches, and other neurological type symptoms. So, this is powerful for many different reasons, not just stimulating the vagus nerve.
After you finish one side then you would switch to the other, then reassess to see if it feels more elastic and not as irritated.
The great thing about these vagus nerve hacks is that it gives you control over your own nervous system. You can incorporate these throughout your day since they only take seconds to minutes to perform. This will help to bring you back to that state of rest and digest and a state of social engagement where you can be joyful, mindful, grounded, and compassionate.
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