Calm Your Nerves.
When I tell people what I do for a living, these are the two phrases I hear most:
1. “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible enough.”
2. “I can’t meditate, because I can’t shut my mind off.”
It always makes me laugh. I usually respond with, “Well, that’s why we call it ‘a practice’: so we can learn those things.” But that isn’t the whole truth—there is something much deeper going on.
Yes, yoga will absolutely improve your strength and flexibility, but I actually consider those byproducts of yoga. As one of my teachers, Judith Lasater, put it, “The goal of yoga is to manipulate the nervous system. When you relax the body, you relax the mind. Yoga is about becoming present and adaptable.”
There are two branches of the nervous system that yoga is most interested in: The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
The SNS is in charge of our “flight and fight” response: We get stimulated by something and it triggers the SNS to send signals to the muscles to prepare for action: run or defend.
The PNS is in charge of our “rest and digest” systems: It is our calming system. It helps us relax and let go (eliminate.)
Our body is always receiving signals from our brain and our brain is receiving signals from the world around us. Our conscious brain only picks up on 5% of the information it receives. That means our body receives 95% MORE information than we are consciously aware of!
Let’s say you are driving home from work and you come close to getting into a really bad car accident. Your SNS (fight/flight) hormones kick in: your blood starts pumping and your body is on high alert. Once the threat has passed, the PNS will override the SNS to calm you down.
It can take up to 24 hours for your nervous system to recover from that threat. Sooner if your PNS is healthy. That’s just one incident. Remember your body is receiving 95% more information than you are aware of, so your nervous system is constantly being bombarded.
Just like our muscles get weak when we don’t exercise them and fatigued when we overwork them, so does our nervous system. In order to “strengthen” our PNS we need to exercise it by practicing slowing down, getting quiet and being still.
We live in a society were it’s all about get up and go: Achieve! Accomplish! Stay busy! Our SNS is like a bodybuilder on steroids. Our poor little nerves are frizzle fried!
When we are stressed the hardest thing to do is be still and quiet. I get it! That is why I have come up with different ways to help make the process of strengthening your PNS a little easier. Check out my list of upcoming workshops and classes. If you need some help figuring out which one is right for you, do not hesitate to reach out to me.