• banner image

    Introduction to The Nervous System and Yoga

    Our daily life is often filled with activities that arouse our nervous system; shifting into a fight, flight, or freeze state. This can stimulate a release of stress hormones into the body, making it challenging to identify, think through, or even try to articulate our thoughts and feelings. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that activates here is an essential function to keep safe from perceived threats of danger; the challenging part becomes when it continues to remain in a hyper-aroused state even after the perceived threat has passed. Symptoms of hyper-arousal may include an increased heart rate, challenges taking a deep breath, a sensation of overwhelm, or even agitation and increased body tension.

    Opposing the SNS is the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS is responsible for inducing relaxation in the body following heightened periods of danger or stress. This “rest and digest” system reminds the body that it is safe. The PSNS aids in slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and overall recovery from stress-inducing events. Reflect on a moment, such as exiting a yoga class, where you felt calm, content, and collected; that is the work of the PSNS.

    The Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems see-saw one another, activating at alternating times based on our current flow of life and exposure to stressors. Overall, bodies desire to achieve balance, also known as homeostasis. Through utilizing various mindfulness tools such as yoga, we can begin to support our bodies in achieving this state.

    Yoga first came to the west in 1893 from India by Swami Vivekananda and slowly began to grow throughout the 1900s into the various iterations that we see today (History of Yoga in America). The asana practice, or movement practice that we traditionally know as yoga, as well as various pranayama (yogic breath practices), meditations, and other practices that fall under this umbrella intentionally stimulate both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems beginning to train our bodies and minds how to effectively move from one state to another to achieve the balance that bodies desire. Depending on the practice, the rate of stimulation toward each of these systems will vary while the goal remains the same; to find more ease and comfort in identifying signals of arousal within the body and learning how to respond to them more sustainably. Aside from this, overall Yoga and other mindfulness practices have been studied to improve mood, increase emotional regulation, reduce inflammation in the body, reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) that the body holds, and more!

    Alpine Lakes is now offering a Free Trauma Informed Yoga class for all current clients! Ask your clinician for more information!