The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Back earlier in the month there was a Deep Relaxation practice offered. This is just one of the practices suggested here to help engage the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

Your body has of course, numerous systems: cardiovascular, digestive, immune, circulatory, endocrine (hormone), and nervous to name some. The stresses we’re undergoing right now aren’t just personal but also collective, given the current environment of the Covid pandemic. So if we want to use yoga to lower our stress, calm the fires, and improve overall health, the optimal entry point is the nervous system.

Specifically this is referred to as the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is a label for the overall nervous system that regulates every other system in our body. So mental and physical activity have a direct influence over the ANS. So we’re talking about how yoga works. Through this practice you stimulate the parasympathetic wing of the ANS, calming, soothing, healing waves move through the body and mind.

So the practice of yoga is tailor-made for helping us manage stress, anxiousness, and malaise we experience in our lives. But the thing is: we need to do it. This is includes our asana practice, but also intentionally and mindfully applying practices like deep relaxation and mindful breath to our everyday life.

So on this subject of mindful breathing, here is the very helpful practice of DIAPHRAGM BREATHING:

The practice only takes a minute or two, though you may find you want to take more time. You know from class, the diaphragm is the muscle beneath your lungs that acts as a bellows to move air in and out of your lungs. What we at the Path refer to as the mid-band.
Place your hands above you belly a couple of inches beneath the bottom of the sternum. Look down, breathe normally, watch and feeling the movement of your hands. If you don’t observe much movement, try to breathe into your hands with mild effort, but not forced. Feel the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm by noticing the travel of your hands. You can also substitute a yoga strap for your hands, as we’ve learned in class. Just loop the strap around you mid-band with a just bit of snugness, but not too tight. You still look down when using the strap.
After practicing this a few times, you can try doing without your hands or strap, gradually bringing the gaze up to level. Eventually and with a little practice you can do this anywhere.

This simple technique is very effective for activating the PNS thus reducing anxiety while boosting the immune system. Here are five other ways it helps:

1. Effectively reduces fatigue or infections.
2. Helps by increasing cellular metabolism capturing and removing toxins in the body.
3. Greater clarity, less stress, calmness and alertness.
4. Increased oxygen levels in your cells help them to also function with increased vitality effectively slowing down cellular degeneration and the aging process.
5. By breathing correctly, you also can slow down your heart rate and lower or stabilize your blood pressure.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

Sharon Salzberg

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Yoga for Times of Crisis

For the next few posts I will talk about how to practice on your own, offering various themes. Today it will be a sequence that BKS Iyengar offered right after the 9/11 tragedy: It was titled:

Yoga Sequence For Times Of Crisis*

The emphasis is to build up one’s emotional strength, not physical stamina or flexibility. With that in mind, here are some specific recommendations as to how to move through these asanas:
~No standing poses. No backbends.
~All poses should be done with eyes open (including savasana). Try to flatten your vision if you know how or at least notice where you gaze is going and try not to let it drift. Or imagine your eyes are located at the temples and to “open” these eyes.
~Do not worry about a perfect pose. However, while breathing in any asana, breathe in such a way that the breath touches the lateral side of the chest during inhalation.
~Be patient and hold each pose from 2-5 minutes

1. Savasana (corpse pose; can be done supported on a bolster or blankets. Be comfortable but not sleepy. Remember eyes stay open.)

2. Supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose. This can be done supported on a bolster or blankets and with a strap if you have one.)

3. Supta virasana (reclining hero pose; can be done supported on a bolster or blankets. Prop yourself up on a chair or stairs if this difficult for you. If this not doable because knee pain, just do the prior pose longer.)

4. Prasarita padottanasana/wide legged forward bend (Make sure the head is supported.)

5. Uttanasana /standing forward bend (again with arm support on a block or chair.)

6. Adho mukha svanasana /downward facing dog pose (again get the head supported.)

7. Viparita dandasana inverted staff pose over a chair or firm cushion (strapping the legs around the mid-thigh is recommend)

8. Sirsasana / headstand (against the wall if you want or do the “preparation poses” for as long as you can. Try to do some version of this as as safely as you can, but don’t skip it.)

10. Setu bandha sarvangasana (supported bridge pose, try make it accessible but not too easy)

11. Sarvangasana / shoulderstand (this can be done supported on a chair or from the wall as we practiced in class. If you have difficulty holding, lapse into halasasa / plow pose; again from the wall.)

Pranayama: End with Antara kumbhaka a very short retention on the inhalation. (This is just holding the in-breath just a little longer than normal. Do this in a comfortable, stable seated pose. Just notice the desire to breath out, then exhale. Don’t strain the breath here. You may notice your inhale grows deeper.)

*Please refer to BKS Iyengar, Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health

a gift from guruji BKS Iyengar

Let us know how it works for you.

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, , ,

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