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What are the Cranial Nerves? Explanation + Video

The cranial nerves are twelve pairs of fundamentally important nerves in the nervous system. They are found in our head and necks, and rather than going through the spinal cord, most of these nerves plug right into the brain stem in the back of our heads.

They help us do such fundamental things as hearing and seeing, breathing and regulating our heart rate. The vagus nerve, or tenth cranial nerve, is a very complex system of neural pathways that 'travels' throughout the body and performs a variety of crucial autonomic functions. In addition to those, it works in tandem with our brain stem to detect whether the environment is safe or threatening, and how much we feel we belong and are able to connect. This function is called neuroception, and the messages it sends to the rest of the brain can determine how we react to any given situation, including whether we are able to act wisely in it or rather enter a survival response like fight, flight or freeze that may not be the most suitable.

Becoming familiar with our cranial nerves can be tremendously beneficial not only for our physical health, as these key parts of our nervous systems are under great pressure from the toxicity we are constantly exposed to, but also for our psychological and spiritual development, as they help us become more aware of our embodied reactions to life and cultivate wise response. (See the article and video titled "What is Nervous System Regulation" for more on this).

The cranial nerves are one of the parts of the nervous system we'll explore on November 6th, during the one-day online retreat titled "Re-Inhabiting Our Bodies". Sign up here - I look forward to practicing with you!

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