find calm with the pns

Finding calm in chaos

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, there are so many amazing benefits to a yoga practice. Just scroll through my instagram and you will find them!

One thing I have noticed recently is my ability to find calm with the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system).

Switching quickly from a stressful situation to a calm state has been particularly useful during 2020 and I’d like to share my secret with you!

Disclaimer! Even yogis get stressed!

Obviously, yoga and meditation will not make you calm and peaceful 100% of the time.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise!

What it can do, however, is teach us how to activate the PNS more quickly which can be really useful in every day life.

Let’s take a look at what the PNS is and how we can use yoga to find calm – both on and off the mat.

find calm with the pns
Photo credit: Christian Diokno by Pexels

The number one way to find calm

The PNS is the system that our supports the body’s functions of resting, restoring and digesting. It is activated when we are in a calm state and allows our bodies to function normally by supporting things like immunity, digestion and menstruation.

Activities that support the PNS play an important role in stress-reduction.

Activities that support the PNS play an important role in stress-reduction.

Dr Timothy McCall delves deeper into the ability of the PNS to reduce stress and, thus, improve health in his Yoga Journal article.

Even though the importance of relaxation is well-documented, most of us still spend too much time with the sympathetic nervous system playing a dominant role in our day-to-day lives.

find calm after bouts of stress
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio by Pexels

Stress is not the enemy!

In stark contrast to the PNS, the SNS kicks in when we are in a heightened state of alert because of some kind of stress – physical or mental.

For this reason, the SNS is commonly known as the fight, flight or freeze system.

Make no mistake, the sympathetic nervous system is just as important for us mere mortals.

In very simple terms, we can think of the SMS as a motivator.

It is the energy within our bodies that keeps us mentally alert and physically ready for action.

Amongst other things, the sympathetic nervous system sends bloods to our muscles when we exercise.

But in a typical hour of exercising, most people will remain in the state of fight or flight releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol the entire time.

find calm with legs up the wall
Finding calm with Legs Up The Wall pose

How to find calm with the PNS

During a typical yoga practice, I find myself switching between the PNS and SNS frequently.

For example, a few minutes of practising handstands activates the sympathetic nervous system. The brain tells the muscles to engage and the brain to focus.

Then, immediately after being upside down with the SNS dominating the show, a minute or so breathing deeply and slowly in Child’s Pose supports the PNS.

This period of rest and recovery allows me to re-enter a calm state before activating the SNS and kicking up again.

find calm with the PNS in every day life
Photo credit Bruce Mars by Pexels

Practice makes calm!

As you can imagine, being able to access the calm state of the PNS at any given time is a pretty useful skill to have!

But it doesn’t happen by magic!

Next time you are on your yoga mat, try taking a few deep, calming breaths in Child’s Pose in between more challenging postures.

Notice how your energy changes from hyped up to a more relaxed state.

We get good at what we practise.

So, the more we activate the PNS on our mats, the easier it will be to find the same calming state in real life.

Personally, I have really noticed how much more quickly I can find a sense of calm after short bursts of stress in day to day life.

I hope to hear in the comments below how you have been able to find calm with the PNS!

Remember to subscribe and follow for more about yoga, the nervous system and life as a yogini!

And, of course, please get in touch if you are ready to start your yoga journey with me online.



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