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  • Dayna Culwell

Turn on your Master Switch

Updated: Jan 7

"Life is a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is destiny; the way you play it is free will." ~ Jawahalal Nehru


Do we have free will to shape our lives as we want? Or, are we at the mercy of a destiny over which we have no power? This is one of the oldest questions in the world and is addressed by an article in this month’s column of YogaU.

Intuitively, we feel like we have free will - the ability to set goals and forge our destiny as we please. But as Jawahalal Nehru notes, we are also limited by the deck of cards we have been dealt. Family background, education, and financial status set us on a trajectory likely to determine the course of our lives.

Add to that our genetic heritage, and it may seem like a vast majority of our 'free choices' are in fact determined by the cards we were dealt early on. As the baby of 5 siblings, I have the opportunity to observe first hand how age affects each of us. Sometimes it makes me feel like my future is completely predetermined. Arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and inflammation in general really can take hold with age.

How to break free from our predetermined trajectory

Yet, life is full of examples of people who break out of the trajectory determined by early life influences. The difference often boils down to who happens to acquire the knowledge, skills, or techniques that enable them to alter the trajectory they are on.


Yoga is one such technique. Yoga philosophy and yoga practice offer tools that can help empower us to take greater charge of our mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Modern Science

Vagus Nerve-the master switch for nervous system regulation

There is emerging knowledge that the vagus nerve functions as a master switch for nervous system regulation in that elusive realm where the body becomes the mind. What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is an integral part of the parasympathetic-nervous-system – the branch of the autonomic nervous system responsible for rest, growth, and repair. Recent studies have linked higher levels of vagus nerve activity, as measured by greater heart rate variability (HF-HRV), with longer survival rates in patients with myocardial infarction and acute trauma, and in those undergoing palliative care.

There is much to learn on this important topic. In the YogaU newsletter, B. Grace Bullock reports on studies showing that vagus nerve activity may impact cancer survival.

Greater vagal tone, reflects the body’s ability to respond to increased metabolic demands and environmental challenges. It is measured by higher levels of respiratory sinus arrhythmia variability. “Higher vagal tone was related to lower tumor burden (size of tumor or number of cancer cells in the body) for those with metastatic cancer.” says Bullock.

These findings are consistent with other research that finds that people with high vagal nerve activity rebound more quickly from acute stress by showing a more rapid return to baseline levels of inflammatory, endocrine, and cardiovascular function than those with low HRV. Their systems show a higher resilience to stress.

How does high vagal activity protect the body?

  • High vagal activity is linked to self-regulation of emotion and social activity

  • High Heart Rate Variability may be a marker of the “inflammatory reflex” in which the vagus nerve informs the brain about tumors and modulates them via feedback to the neuroendocrine and immune systems.

  • Higher vagal activity may also be linked to lower depression and higher levels of social support.

Taken together, these studies suggest that high vagal activity may serve as a protective factor that increases survival latency for men and women with prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer. Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation are known to decrease sympathetic activity and increase parasympathetic dominance, and may stimulate vagal activation. As such, these practices may enhance longevity and quality of life for those diagnosed with cancer. Future studies will be needed to support this proposition.

What can you do now to improve your heart rate variability? Put your yoga practice first, not last. The month of December can bring out the best and the worst in us. Prioritize your health. Monitor your alcohol and sugar intake. Don’t stay up too late. Can you skip yet another lunch date and spend an hour on yourself in one of our yoga classes? There’s no easier way to practice yoga than wherever you happen to be. Just click the daily Zoom link and hop on. Aren’t you worth the extra effort? I hope you say yes.

Vagus Nerve Activity May Impact Cancer Prognosis

B GRACE BULLOCK, PHD, E-RYT 500 UPDATED: NOVEMBER 29, 2022 ORIGINAL: JUNE 04, 2016, Bullock is a Certified Viniyoga Therapist and Faculty at the Integrated Health Yoga Therapy (IHYT) Training program. She is the former Senior Research Scientist at the Mind & Life Institute and former Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. For more information see

Be the person you are meant to be-- in God's eyes.

You are invited to join us any day of the week for online and in-person yoga classes. Classes are only $14 each. I choose not to raise my rates because I simply want your participation. Choose from Delicious Deep Stretch, Perfect Posture Yoga, or Half & Half, the new class that features 30 minutes of standing warrior postures and 30 minutes of restorative yoga. What a dreamy way to finish the week. Do you have. a question for me? Please text me at 512-914-4870 or email me at

Take a look at this week's class schedule. The Private schedule will follow.



MONDAY 12 p.m. Delicious Deep Stretch

TUESDAY 12 p.m. Perfect Posture Yoga

WEDNESDAY 12:15 p.m. Delicious Deep Stretch

THURSDAY 12 p.m. Perfect Posture Yoga

FRIDAY 10 a.m. Half & Half Yoga

HALF & HALF will satisfy almost everyone’s need for strength training and deep stretching. At 10 a.m., we will be doing standing stretches and warrior poses. At 10:30 a.m. we take a quick water break and then proceed to the floor. Relaxing, restorative poses will follow.

MONDAY makes me smile

8 a.m. Thank you Carol & Chris

9:15 a.m. Thank you Judy and Andy

10:30 a.m. Thank you Christine

TUESDAY totally rocks

10:30 a.m. Thank you Brookdale Living

1:15 p.m. Thank you Jocelyn

3 p.m. Thank you Christina

4:30 p.m. Thank you Susan and Paula

5:45 p.m. Thank you Christopher


9 a.m. Thank you Chris & Carol

10:30 p.m. Thank you Jenny


3:15 p.m. Thank you Brookdale Clare bridge


THURSDAY thrives

9 a.m. Thank you Christina

10:30 am Thank you Dani at Belmont

FRIDAY flies

8:30 a.m. Welcome Paula and Susan!


I appreciate you!! Warm wishes to everyone,

Dayna Culwell, C-IAYT

Owner & Instructor, Yoga by Dayna

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