What do we mean by strengthening the nervous system?Dec 31, 2020
We talk about the nervous system a lot in Kundalini Yoga. But what does it mean, to strengthen the nervous system?
It took me years of practice to really understand this system, but one day it just clicked.
I was driving down a pretty narrow street, there was a group of cyclists riding toward me when all of a sudden a car came barreling down the street (in the same direction as the cyclists) and moved into my lane to pass the cyclists. He was moving fast and right toward me. There were parked cars on either side of the road leaving nowhere for me to go. I began to break leaving just enough time for the car to pass the cyclists and move back into his lane before narrowly passing me.
I immediately felt my heart pounding in my chest and I realized I was feeling my nervous system kick into flight or fight mode - I was trembling, I felt scared, my armpits prickled, I could feel the surge of adrenaline and it was like my heart was in my throat.
I took a long deep breath in through my nose and exhaled.
I did it again and felt myself starting to calm down.
I stayed with my breath and said a prayer of gratitude that we were all safe, and when thoughts of what could have happened crept in, I repeated that prayer.
A short time later, I felt at ease like nothing had happened.
This experience taught me 3 things:
- What my sympathetic nervous system feels like when it’s activated (fight or flight mode).
- Breathing deeply through my nose helps to relax my nervous system and restores my parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
- I could actually feel that my nervous system was strengthened as a result of my yoga practice because I calmed down so much more quickly than I have other times my sympathetic nervous system was activated.
There’s something to be said about that felt sense that can help to understand a concept like what does it mean to strengthen my nervous system?
In yoga, you practice moving from stress (postures & exercises) to relaxation (mini breaks between exercises and savasana at the end of class) and work with the breath to support you through those transitions.
This on-the-mat experience is practice for life.
You work with the breath so that in life, you can use it as a tool to move from stress to relaxation.
So you can walk away from that stressful meeting or conversation, shake it off completely, and recover in time to shift the course for the rest of your day.