Getting to know our ANS and its patterns is a valuable tool in our aim of promoting our wellbeing and the maintenance of our homeostasis. It takes practice and especially awareness to distinguish between the different tones this system has on offer and what each of those entails. We know the system controls our heart rate, our blood pressure and the function of all our integral organs. It has two brunches- The Sympathetic Nerves System (SNS), which is in-charge of the fight or flight response or even freeze at time, we can call it our survival mode. And the Parasympathetic Nerves System (PNS), which is more about recovering post stress aka Rest and Digest mode.
Realising the value of both systems and understating when to stimulate each one according to our condition in any given moment is a gift. Much of what we learn throughout our life is that stress affects the nerves system and overload of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can lead to disease. Differentiating though between the different kinds of stress levels and understanding the wear and tear load we are detecting in our mind and body is important. We need to differentiate between acute stress and chronic stress. In acute stress the body response to the trauma quite quickly and the SNS is used in different ways to help us “survive” that moment of danger. The immune system is actually working better to cater for that. Stress levels rise up rapidly then level themselves post “incident” and the body maintain a healthy intermediate stress response. In such life situations our preferred practices will be stimulating the PNS tone to de-excite and shift into post stress mode with some cooling and calming practices that facilitate the shift into res and rebalance. While with repeated/chronic stress conditions such as Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue there is no longer much stress response detected as the body is exhausted and can’t react anymore. In those instances it is actually the PSN that is ruling and with our practice we need to encourage and introduce some SNS tone slowly by utilising more heating and vitalising practices that energise and awaken our body. Generally yoga is known for its calming and centring effects which is more associated with PNS, however, a lot of what we do in yoga stimulates the SNS just as much. The differentiation between the type of stress the individual suffers from and the tailoring of the appropriate practices is key here. Yoga offers means by which we can alternate the stress response. It trains or mind and body to be adaptable. Just like adaptogens, which are used to stabilise our physical processes and promote the homeostasis state yoga is about changing our breath, physical, mental and behavioural patterns in order to allow the shift into greater balance to occur.