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Yoga is a science. The more you practice and the more you study, the more this will ring true! Let’s first lay out the science of your brain to see how it directly impacts your perceived level of safety, daily ease of life, and your overall level of peace.
About your nervous system
The brain houses your nervous system, which is responsible for communicating to, and directing the function of, all other bodily organs. Some parts of the nervous system work consciously while others work unconsciously. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) works automatically, without your conscious effort – regulating the widening or narrowing of your blood vessels, heart rate, and your rate of breathing for example.
The ANS is divided in two, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). These two divisions have opposite effects on your organs but, work together to respond appropriately to life situations. The SNS prepares your body for short-term survival, while the PNS prepares your body for long-term survival.
Evaluate your stress response
Let’s find out if your perceived level of safety, daily ease of life, and your overall level of peace are impacted by your brain! Take a moment now to recall a recent argument you've experienced and then answer these three questions:
1. Why did the argument begin?
2. Did you feel threatened?
3. Was this a life threatening situation?
Understanding your stress response
If you answered 'Yes" to the last question your brain and SNS are reacting as they should to real life-threatening situations. When the SNS detects danger – whether real or perceived – it immediately alerts the entire body to prepare for action: to increase your heart rate, widen your airways to make breathing easier, and release stored energy for greater strength.
Simultaneously the SNS alerts your other body processes - such as your digestion and urination - not needed for self-defense, to slow or shut down completely. This process is your body’s Stress Response protecting you for short-term survival.
For those of you who answered "No" to that last question, too often the brain perceives non-threatening situations as threatening situations leaving you in a chronic state of stress. The role of the PNS is to manage your response to daily activities, primarily by conserving and restoring - working to slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure and stimulate your digestive system. On the flip side, when your Stress Response is activated as it is in Stage 1 – whether real or perceived – the PNS provides additional resources to continue your fight for survival through Stage 2.
Inappropriate activation of your stress response
With the ever increasing pace and stress of life, often times your Stress Response is activated inappropriately – when there is no real threat or danger. The Stress Response is your survival mechanism, but when chronically activated inappropriately can wreak havoc on your body and level of peace. Long-term exposure to cortisol, which is produced with the activation of your Stress Response, impairs the healthy functioning of your endocrine, digestion and immune systems.
Re-conditioning your brain with yoga
Much of what activates your Stress Response is not a matter of life and death. So, the inappropriate activation of your Stress Response has been conditioned psychologically. The good news is, you can restore, and re-condition, your Stress Response to its inherent function! By practicing awareness, consciousness and mindfulness you can change your psychological patterns and re-condition your brain and SNS to only respond appropriately – when there is a real threat or danger.
Practices of reflection and mindfulness training will help you to create new patterns of response. The practice of iRest® Yoga Nidra, Pranayama and Meditation restore the body, mind, and senses back to their natural state of well-being by calming the nervous system and inducing the relaxation response. Transformation is a journey inward and with daily mindfulness practice, new healthy patterns will emerge, while old patterns fade!
Overall, the practice of Meditation, Yoga Nidra and Pranayama will help your brain to better manage stressful situations - ultimately, retraining your brain to only respond to real threats of danger ~ allowing you to live freely.
Yoga and the Autonomic Nervous System: Re-Educating the Mind by Sandra Uyterhoeven