Don’t we all question YOGA’S TRUE CAPABILITIES?
We often hear people say – “Yoga can help you calm down” – “Yoga can help with anxiety” – “Yoga can help you de-stress” etc. etc. But is this really true, or do we blindly believe it because we hear it so often?
Well, at the end of this article (if I do a good enough job of explaining 😉), you will be able to decide for yourself whether yoga really helps with stress or not!!!
Because I like to call my blog “A modern approach to understanding the path of yoga”, I am going to give you a modern and slightly scientific answer. I do not intend to turn it into a science lecture. However, I do have to start with a brief overview of the our body’s nervous system in order to explain this further.
Some of you may already know this. But for those of you who want the shortest and easiest overview of the Nervous System, click RIGHT HERE!!!!
The others can continue reading on…
Just remember OUR FOCUS is going to be on understanding the Parasympathetic Nervous System, and the role of the Vagus Nerve.
PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
Unlike the Sympathetic NS, which has the ability to invoke fight, flight or freeze mode, the Parasympathetic NS takes us into the rest and digest mode. It conserves energy and restores balance. It slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure. It stimulates the digestive tract to process food and eliminate wastes. Energy from the processed food is used to restore and build tissues.
When your body is this relaxed, your immune system functions at a higher level. Activating your Parasympathetic NS is the key to deep rejuvenation.
The Vagus Nerve is the key to activating the Parasympathetic NS. It is a part of the autonomic pathway connecting brain to internal organs. It is known as the heart of the Parasympathetic NS as it runs from deep in brainstem into the belly, and sends information back from your gut to your brain.
Yogis believe that mastery over this nerve (Parasympathetic NS) brings control over heart rate and digestion, as well as a certain degree of control over pain. Some yogic techniques that stimulate this nerve include – chanting, ujjayi breath, certain asanas etc.
Note – that we spend most of our time in the Sympathetic NS (fight, flight, or freeze modes.) This is when the stress hormones flood out system. But if we learn to activate our vagus nerve and shift to the Parasympathetic NS, it can help us de-stress and get healthy.
WAYS TO ACTIVATE THE VAGUS NERVE
- There are several ways to activate the Vagus Nerve. But here are a few:
- Include inversions in your yoga practice like downward dog, legs up the wall, etc.
- Practice restorative yoga and include gentle backbends, twists etc.
- Chant and sing in low resonant tones
- Immerse your tongue insaliva while doing long deep breathing
- Immerse your face in cold water for 2-3 minutes
Although yoga isn’t the only way to de-stress. It certainly is one of the ways to de-stress, while gaining many other benefits like strength and flexibility!!!