Did you know that yoga has breathing techniques that can help to balance your autonomic nervous system? The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating all of the unconscious activities in our body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. There are yoga breathing practices that can help to activate each side of the autonomic nervous system, and by knowing which practices to do at different times of day, we can take advantage of these benefits!
The sympathetic nervous system is one of the two divisions of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions. The other division is the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body for emergency situations. It does this by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, while also decreasing blood flow to non-essential organs. The fight-or-flight response is triggered by stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. In most cases, the sympathetic nervous system returns to its resting state once the stressful event has passed. However, chronic stress can cause the sympathetic nervous system to remain in a state of high alert, which can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” functions. This system slows heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the digestive organs. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated when the body is at rest or in a relaxed state.
Most of us don’t give much thought to our breathing. It’s just something that happens automatically, without any effort on our part. However, the act of exhaling is actually quite beneficial to our health. When we exhale, we stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping us feel calm and relaxed. In contrast, when we inhale, we stimulate our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. When we practice breathing consciously we can utilise the breath’s affect on our Nervous System to either ENERGISE, promote CALMNESS or find BALANCE!
INHALE = SYMPATHETIC ACTIVATION
EXHALE = PARASYMPATHETIC ACTIVATION
BALANCING BREATH ~ Sama vritti, or “equal breathing,” is a simple yet powerful breath practice that can be done anywhere, anytime. The basic idea is to breathe in and out for the same amount of time. For example, you might inhale for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four. Sama vritti helps to center and calm the mind, and it can be especially helpful during times of stress or anxiety. The even rhythm of the breath helps to slow down racing thoughts, and it can bring a sense of ease and peace. Sama vritti is a practice that anyone can do at anytime of day.
CALMING BREATH ~ Vishama Vritti involves breathing evenly and deeply, and extending your exhalation for twice as long as your inhalation. This breathing pattern has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress levels, promote deep relaxation and better sleep. In addition, vishama vritti helps to oxygenate the body and improve lung function. It can be practiced sitting comfortably or lying down. Vishama vritti is a simple but powerful tool to activate our parasympathetic nervous system and can be used before we go to bed to help us sleep or in times of high stress.
BEST TIME TO PRACTICE : At Night before bed to help us relax and improve sleep quality. At times of high stress and anxiety this calming breath can also help us feel more relaxed. Follow this link for my video on Vishama Vritti – Ratio Breathing!
ENERGISING ~ Kapalbhati is an invigorating and stimulating yogic practice that helps to cleanse the lungs and energise the body. It is said to be one of the most effective methods for increasing prana, or life force energy. Kapalbhati consists of short, powerful exhales followed by passive inhales. The exhales are created by contracting the stomach muscles, while the inhales are simply a result of the stomach relaxing. Kapalbhati can be practiced for several minutes at a time, and is an excellent way to start your day or to break up an afternoon slump. In addition to increasing energy levels, Kapalabhati has also been shown to improve respiratory function, boost immunity, and reduce stress levels.
BEST TIME TO PRACTICE : In the morning to awaken and energise us for the day ahead and mid-afternoon if we are feeling sleepy. It is also beneficial before exercise or prior to giving a presentation or taking a test! Follow this link to my video on Kapalbhati Energising breath!
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