• Janet Golownia

How yoga helps you to efficiently and effectively manage stress...

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

What sets yoga apart from other forms of exercise and movement is that it trains the nervous system to deal more efficiently and effectively with stress. In yoga there is great focus on the spine and for good reason. The central nervous system that governs your movement is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The spinal cord runs down the spinal column. It is the peripheral nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and pass through the openings between the vertebra and run out to the arms and legs. The peripheral nerves connect to our muscles to move our body and these are under our voluntary control. But, peripheral nerves also connect to our autonomic nervous system which controls all involuntary functions like the beating of your heart, the digestion of your food, etc. It is this involuntary or automatic system that is affected under stress.

There are two parts of this autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is associated with doing and the parasympathetic is associated with being. What is interesting is that the pathways of the nerves to the sympathetic system stem from the largest part of the spine, the thoracic spine which is where our ribs attach. The parasympathetic pathways stem from the cervical spine or neck and the lumbar spine or low back. What areas of the body are most affected by our sedentary lifestyle? The neck and low back.

In yoga we free up the space between the vertebrae in the neck and low back, which will improve the functioning of the nerve pathways to the parasympathetic system or as I like to call it the 'relaxation system'. Each time we hold our body in a yoga pose and practice deep breathing we are training our body to efficiently move from sympathetic to parasympathetic. Over time this conditioning will help us to deal with stress in our everyday lives more effectively.

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