Yoga & The Nervous System

Understanding Your Nervous System

I’ve been studying my own weird brain for years. My life has been quite the colourful mess, but I’ve had the pleasure of learning by experience from the inside out. What is going on in my body and mind – and WHY? HOW? For the last 18 years I’ve been experimenting with what I do, think, say, eat, drink, smoke and take and how that impacts the way I feel and function. It’s bloody fascinating. Our bodies are such a complex and intricate set of systems that work together to look after us and keep us in a state of balance (homeostasis). 

But sometimes, for a variety of different reasons, one or more of these systems doesn’t work properly and throws us out of whack. We get sick, injured, mentally unwell and life becomes hard, harder than it already is, harder than it needs to be. Underlying all the main systems of the body such as the endocrine system, digestive system and respiratory system it’s the nervous system that really drives our overall wellbeing and experience of life. This is our command centre. The nervous system acts automatically to navigate our survival, but what we need to do to survive has changed so much over the years and the way our nervous systems are responding to the modern world hasn’t quite caught the memo. For a lot of us, we are stuck in chronic low-grade stress which means we are living in a mild state of ‘fight or flight’ constantly. 

Anxiety, insomnia, easily stressed out and overwhelmed? Yeah…This is your Sympathetic Nervous System in overdrive. We need the SNS to recognise threat and to enable us to react quickly when we are in danger. Back in the day it was very useful when we had to run away from bears in caves and fight for survival on a primal level. The SNS kept us safe by releasing adrenaline and cortisol which increase our heart and breathing rate to gear us up to fight or flee. Thanks mate, we don’t need ya so much anymore! 

Unfortunately, our systems are still behaving as if we do, super sensitive and easily triggered by other pressures and demands such as stressful jobs, family, money, social media, mental health difficulties and so on leaving us in a constant state of high alert and exhaustion. This stress can start to manifest into physical symptoms in the body which we then try and treat as the issue, when really the problem lives at a much deeper level. I know this because I myself am guilty of living in my SNS for majority of my life and I have personally experienced the direct effects of NOT allowing it to switch off. Stress increases blood pressure, inflammation and lowers the strength of our immune systems - and we all know that’s not healthy. Random pains, heart palpitations, tight chest, difficulty breathing, pins and needles, sore muscles and joints, fatigue, skin picking or nail biting, teeth grinding – these are just some of the things I have experienced as a direct result of being unnecessarily stressed and anxious. All these things then have a knock-on effect in our work, social and personal lives, and so the snowball keeps building and rolling. Starting to put the picture together?

Often we aren’t even aware of this, you might be reading this now thinking ‘ha, that’s not me I’m fine’, but sometimes we don’t even realise we are stressed because it has just become the norm now, always rushing, always busy, competing, comparing, and subjecting ourselves to TOO MUCH SHIT, too many options, desires and things we NEED to DO and BUY and ACHIEVE etc. This is why we must make a conscious effort to counterbalance the overactive SNS by tapping into the Parasympathetic Nervous System, the brake pedal. 

This nervous system governs and regulates our ‘rest and digest’ responses – so basically the opposite of the SNS, it slowwwws eeeverythiing the effffff down. This is WHY activities like yoga and meditation are so important for our wellbeing. So that we can actually allow our bodies and minds to rest and restore which in turn will reward you with MORE focus, clarity, inner steadiness and ease to go about your life in a much more functional and enjoyable way. Yoga and meditation speak directly to the nervous system and reconnect us with the PNS bringing us into a space where the body feels safe to relax, repair and regenerate. This mostly relates to breath and presence – these two things accompanied by carefully designed movement patterns have the power to heal. 

That my good friends, is why I became a Yoga Teacher <3 Moral of the story – come do yoga with me! :-) 


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