Welcome to the third and final post in this series. If you have not yet read the previous two posts on this series then follow the links here to catch up:
first post… https://wp.me/p8enlF-7S,
second post … https://wp.me/p8enlF-7X
This final post on the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) looks at how we can readdress the imbalanced and now dysfunctional system. We achieve this by taking the time to focus on increasing the functioning of the Parasympathetic system.
Increasing the Parasympathetic (PSNS) activity
There are a few self-help techniques we can follow to increase the Parasympathetic Nerve activity. If you attend Pilates with me already, you’ll know that I often explain that each time we practise an exercise, we build more neuron (nerve) connections, making it easier for the body to follow/carry-out the next time.
In the same way, practising of these techniques on a regular basis, will help increase the PSNS activity and strength.
Thus taking you out of a continued ‘stress’ state, to a balanced body with the ability to efficiently rest and maintain its functions to steady state.
Here is a technique that I practise with clients to calm the ANS system down, stimulating the PSNS with diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing:
Set yourself up… make yourself comfortable:
- Laying down on the floor with back on the mat/floor
knees bent, feet flat on the floor
- Provide lots of pillow support for your body
(under the knees, under the lower back and head)
- Place hands onto your lower belly
Now to begin focused breathing:
- Begin by focusing your breath into your hands…
- Inhaling: breathe deep down into the pelvis, towards the pubic bone
(rising into your hands)
- Exhaling: feel the belly sink and fall into the mat/floor
- Continue this focused breathing, noticing the rise and fall of the breath
(belly rises to the sky as you inhale, letting the belly fall/release as you exhale)
Now, continuing the focused breaths (deep into the pelvis), continue with a body scan to notice the tension in each area of the body and release the tension with each exhale.
Begin at the toes, work your way through the whole of the body, right through to the top of your head.
Take the time to work through every area of your body to release any tension, for example:
- Toes, sole of the foot, bridge of the foot, ankle
- Lower leg, shins, knees, upper leg
- Pelvis: all sides and top/bottom, hip/leg sockets
- Waist, waist sides, ribcage: back, sides, front and sternum
- Lower, mid and upper back
- Fingers/thumbs, knuckles, wrists
- Lower arm, elbows (inside and outside), upper arm
- Shoulders: around the arm socket, shoulder blades, upper shoulders, chest muscles into collar bone
- Neck: leading from shoulders, up to base of head
- Separate the jaw, lick the lips (or run finger over the lips)
- Head: base, back of head, facial muscles (mouth, cheeks, eyes, forehead), crown of head
Work through your body mindfully, that is, being present and focusing on the body scan and breath alone. If your mind wanders, gently return it back to where you stopped.
Using mindfulness to quieten the mind.
Continuing the ‘mindful’ and ‘being present’ focus as applied in the above breathing technique, into your everyday life.
Reducing our multi-tasking by focusing only on the given task, bringing your awareness into the very smallest of activities that we take for granted. E.g. when eating, focusing only on eating. When climbing the stairs, focus completely on that movement alone.
Of course, we are so used to doing ‘everyday’ activities without thinking… so this does take quite some practice.
This is the last of the 3 posts in this series. I hope you have enjoyed and feel you could apply some of these tips into your life. Enjoy practising and keep an eye out for more informative posts. Feel free to share.