Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Autopilot

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – Why Your Body Knows Best

The autonomic nervous system is your body’s auto-pilot.

  • Can you imagine organising your body to digest a sandwich?
  • Or managing how much to pee today?
  • What about controlling how much your pupils dilate when you step outside?

In other words, these are all examples of processes going on inside you. Processes that you have no conscious control over.

Janet Sobel Milky Way 1945 – Could staring at this artwork affect your physiology?

In the same vein, could this hidden system be why abstract paintings like Sobel’s (above) are pleasing to us??

That is to say, whilst your mind struggles to make sense of the image, your body tells a different story. For instance, your heart rate is dropping… your breathing slows…tension starts to let go. We could say that your body is at peace with certain patterns.

โ€œI think that one of the most important things about Pollock’s work is that it isn’t so much what you’re looking at but it’s what is happening to you as you’re looking at his particular workโ€ (Bragg, 1987)

Autonomic Nervous System & the Breath

Is it weird to think there’s so much wisdom in our body that we know nothing about?

One way we can connect with this wisdom is through the breath. The breath is like a magic key that unlocks the mysterious world inside the body!

At some point, I’ll eventually finish my e-book about my journey with the breath. Breath – from complete stranger to new best friend; How I used yogic breathing practices to find peace and non-familiar states of consciousness and how you can too!

It’s a project I’ve been working on for some time…but it keeps morphing into something bigger…and hopefully something even more powerful for those starting out or curious about breathing as a practice.

Smile though your heart is slowing

Yogis have known for some time that breathing can affect a whole cascade of processes in the body.

Y๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ค ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ท๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜บ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ?

Duchenne Smiles are considered a more genuine smile – the whole face is involved.

Well, a few things actuallyโ€ฆ

But one other thing isโ€ฆ ๐—ฆ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด!

The brain is an incredible ๐˜ผ๐™จ๐™จ๐™ค๐™˜๐™ž๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ค๐™ฃ-๐™ˆ๐™–๐™ ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ-๐™ˆ๐™–๐™˜๐™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™š and the mind associates sensory feedback from a smile with positive, feel-good emotions. Smiling will influence heart-rate, respiration, and, itโ€™s been suggested, can even regulate brain blood temperature.

๐ผ๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘”๐‘™๐‘ฆ, ๐ต๐‘œ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘ฅ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘—๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘  โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘’๐‘› ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘› ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘ฃ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘”๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘Ž (๐‘๐‘’๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘’๐‘‘).

๐Š๐ง๐จ๐ฐ ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐’๐ฆ๐ข๐ฅ๐ž

Authentic Smile Vs Faking it?

A Duchenne ๐Ÿ˜Š (top photo) – also referred to as ๐™จ๐™ข๐™ž๐™ก๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™š๐™ฎ๐™š๐™จ – involves contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (raised cheeks and crowโ€™s feet around the ๐Ÿ‘€).

Iโ€™m not sure I would replace my breathing practice with a smiling practice just yet! But smiling if you’re stuck in traffic who during a tough workout may just help you take the edge off your stress levels.

Breathe Easy

How’s Your Breath Right Now?

A lot of us breathe like we’re doing battle.ย 

Short, sharp punchy kind of breaths.ย ย 

Name Your Battlefield

Part of the problem is you haven’t dared let yourself believe you’re in a fight.

Maybe you’re in the thick of a divorce…or maybe your boss expects you to put it all on the line for the company…again!ย  Maybe you’re a parent fighting for the best life for your child.

Whatever it is, it needs managing not ignoring.ย  There’s a time and a place for breathing hard & heavy and it comes at a cost if we push this too far or for too long.

Name the thing that’s putting you on high alert and take a long slow breath…it’s going to be OK. <3ย 

Turning to Rain Later…

Well…the snow’s been and gone. 

But before it disappeared I managed to get out on my skis for a few hours. 

As far as ‘exercise’ goes, skiing is my first love!

As a result of skiing, I realised that to get better at anything, you have to be prepared to fall.

Even more, not only should you not avoid failure, you should actively go looking for it! Every wipeout was a time I wasn’t afraid to try something new and learn something in the process.

In contrast, I’ll leave you with a few safer things I’ve learned on my journey to ski teacher…

Tromso, Northern Norway https://www.visitnorway.com/places-to-go/northern-norway/tromso/northern-lights/

+ If you want an epic Northern Lightshow (aurora borealis) the coastline of northern Norway will not disappoint! It’s like the whole world turns into some kind of sublime theatre production, with you stood centre stage!

+ If you want wild, remote terrain and don’t mind driving 4hrs for decent coffee the Canadian Rockies is your ticket to backcountry skiing heaven. Bears, wolves, porcupines, mountain lions and lots of very friendly humans who say “Eh?” (like they’re asking a question) at the end of every sentence.

+ But if you want to get really good at skiing and tear around the mountainside like it’s one big theme park (in a good way), the French Alps are hard to beat. Endless ski lifts and you’re never more than 10mins away from a delicious croque monsieur.

Winter Bathing: To Winter Bathe or Not to Winter Bathe

What’s the Deal with Winter Bathing

Winter Bathing…like sunbathing only less warm!

I’m enjoying exploring the concept of bathing at the moment.

  • What does it actually mean to say we’re sunbathingย and is it good or bad for us?
  • Are there different environments or atmospheres that offer bathing opportunities
  • Is Forrest Bathing nothing more than a relaxing walk in the woods?

This week I think I’ve invented my own form of bathing; Winter Bathing

Snow Bathing by Japanese Snow Monkey

Winter Bathing

Nothing to do with cold water immersion therapy, popularised by the inspirational Wim Hof.ย  What I’m talking about is simply soaking up winter.

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Sitting out in the cold doesn’t come naturally.

Evolutionary speaking, we’re hard-wired to avoid cold stress.ย  No wonder that this time of year my mind would prefer to be hibernating indoors with the fire cranked up. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

However, when I actually give myself the opportunity to sit and soak in the winter (actually allow my body to relax and absorb as opposed to shut down and fight the cold) my body recognises that it’s not a fight for survival.

Eventually, I realise, I’m well fed and well clothed.ย  I can slowly start to relax and enjoy the feeling of the cold air and actually feel the sun on my skinย ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ˜Ž

Of course, it’s still really cold and I need my warmest clothes in order to enjoy the experience. ๐Ÿงค๐Ÿงฆ

So are there any actual benefits to sitting out in the cold???

Well, unlike Forrest Bathing, there’s currently no research.ย  But it might just be the thing to keep your circadian rhythm set during the long dark winter days.

Yes, I’m aware my DayGlo(TM) orange Patagonia jacket might look out of place in my English country garden, I couldn’t care less… It’s January and I’m outside drinking tea!! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ™Œโค๏ธ๐ŸŒžโ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿžย  ย And that’s got to be good for you…Huzzah!!!

Forest Bathing: To Forest Bathe or Not to Forest Bathe…

Forest Bathing

Compared to sunbathing, Forest-bathing is the new kid on the block.  It’s already gaining a lot of traction in the UK, as a therapeutic tool.

But we’re in danger of missing the point.  Whilst it’s being sold as a relaxing mindfulness exercise, really it’s a straight-up case of biological survival.

Of course, a walk in the woods is relaxing but why is your body produces more Natural Killer cells?

I’ll tell you why…it’s improving your immune system in response to the essential oils (phytoncides) pumped out by the trees.

crown-shyness-2[2]

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick primer on Forrest Bathing.  My previous post was a quick lowdown on sunbathing and my next post I’ll be discussing why I’ve invented my own form of bathing – Winter Bathing.

To Bathe or Not to Bathe…

Sunlight

Vitamin D isย one of 24 micronutrients critical for human survival.ย  And Vit D deficiency is pretty common due to low sunlight.ย  Common enough that the NHS offers Vit D supplements for free –ย Healthy Start.

All pregnant andย breastfeeding women and young children are at risk of vitamin D deficiency (teenagers, younger women and those from ethnic minorities are particularly at risk). –ย Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutritionย 

Whilst supplements are a good idea, especially in winter, sunlight is the sine qua non for optimal Vitamin D levels.

Sunlight and the NHS

Our larger health institutionsย (still) err on the side of caution when it comes to soaking up the sun.

The NHS offers blanket advice.ย  Stay in the shade, in the UK, between 11am-3pm, between March and October.ย  Clearlyย written by AI robots who haven’t ventured north!

Sunlight in the UK

The reality is. we live a fair distance from the equator.ย  Not only that, but we spend most of our time indoors under artificial lighting.

The typical office is between 100 and 300 lux during the daytime.ย  Compare that to even the gloomiest, most overcast winterโ€™s day, and it is at least 10 times brighter outside.

Suffice to say Vit D is very important to health.ย  But perhaps even more importantly than Vitamin D, sunlight is playing an even more crucial role…regulating our circadian rhythm.

So, maybe just maybe you’re not deficient, but it’s definitely likely that you’re not getting optimal amounts to thrive.

You might want to look into Vit D supplementationย but you definitely want to look into spending more time outside.

In the following posts, I’ll be looking at other ways we can bathe our bodies (hence the peculiar title above?!).

And by bathing, I simply mean, experiencingย different atmospheres…Summer, Winter, Nocturnal, Forrest bathing, Sea bathing…the list is endless.

But in the meantime…Go chase the Sun!!

Fear not, I am with you

I have a little Ganesha statuette in my yoga room.

Noticing it for perhaps the first time, my 4-year-old son asked if it was an elephant.ย  To which I simply replied, “Yes…that’s Ganesha”.

He immediately asked if he was there to protect us.

I felt like he was telling me not asking me.

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To my mind, Ganesha represents, knowledge and is the remover of obstacles, but my son immediately felt, what I had to google to find out, Ganesha’s upraised hand depicts protection.ย  Itย means, ‘Fear not, I am with you’.

Some things are better felt than understood.

 

Bear Neccesities

I received the most astonishing message on Facebook the other day…

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A lady was asking If I could do a shamanic journey or a ceremony for a friend who’d got into a spot of bother.

Now it’s not something I’m inclined to do and it’s certainly not something I advertise but she finished her message with “You did one for me in 2014…and in all honesty it totally healed me”. ย 

Say what now!!?!

Now it’s not every day you get a message saying you’ve healed someone…at best I think I provide comfort and support to those going through struggle…if there’s any healing at all you can believe the Universe has stepped in and taken over whatever human mess I was making of the situation!

My memory is shocking…like really really bad….something to do with trauma I surmise, but I really have difficulty remembering names AND faces!!ย  Which is not a great combo!ย  I checked the lady’s FB profile and there wasn’t a hint of recollection…except…except my mind kept throwing up a bear….and somewhere in my subconscious I knew that I knew.

So I asked the question….“Did the journey involve a bear?”

I won’t go into details of this personal journey but she said: “Yes…a Grizzly brown bear!”ย 

Within a month of this healing journey experience, she met a new partner and they now live very happily with their toddler and dog!!

If she needed more proof…after a month of being together her partner turned to her and said…”It’s like I always say, if you’re going to be a bear…be a grizzly!”

Talk about a relationship written in the stars!!!

 

Candy Conscious

We live in interesting times…

Times where companies act more like governments than governments?!?

It appears Google likes to reward it’s staff whilst factoring in long-term health implications of ‘treats’.

Google’s Behavioral Science Team (if our Government wasn’t broke i’m sure they’d have behavioral science teams too!) ran an experiment or two with M&M’s.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.07.14.png

These boring looking jars are the result of their research.

Boring and unappealing, because that’s the point…millions of dollars of branding and advertising curtailed in one plain white opaque unbranded porcelin jar!

Next to these jars are open glass containers of fruit…the healthy fruit is visible and there’s nothing to stop an impulse (like a lid) from reaching in to grab one.

Whilst this sounds like pretty basic stuff the results are anything but basic!

Bear in mind NO sweets were taken away from the workplace… just simple environmental changes.ย 

This reduced the consumption of M&Mโ€™s by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks, in Googleโ€™s NY office alone!!ย  That’s the equivalent of 9 fewer vending machine-sized packages of M&Ms per employee.

 

Now think about your environment…HOME or OFFICE…

  • What are the barriers between you and the unhealthy stuff?
  • How many steps between you sat here now and you eating something fresh & healthy?
  • What are the ‘Candy wrappers’ in your life – the things that make you do stuff on impulse.
  • What simple ‘pause’ barriers can you set up to give your conscious mind time to catch up with your subconscious behaviour.

 

I’ll close with thoughts for a future article…ย  think about the ‘candy wrappers’ of Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram…the bright shiny images we all carry around in our pockets.

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Spiritual Pride

Be here now

At the end of one of my yoga classes, I’ll occasionally ask…

“How was that?”

This is what I hear…

  • My hips feel great
  • I feel recharged
  • I could just go to sleep right now!

 

After a more intense class, people trip over their words and I can tell they’re in that wonderful ‘yoga stoned’ place.

But only once has anyone ever mentioned the ‘S’ word.

“My last yoga class was more Spiritual

I looked blankly back at the lady who had just said those words.

I heard my mind saying…“Oh…I. was. not. expecting. that”.

I wasn’t offended…which was interesting in itself!

Telling your new yoga teacher that your old yoga teacher was more spiritual is much like telling your new Crossfit coach that your old coach could do more burpees and wore his *board shorts better.

There isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.

I’m here.ย  You’re here.ย  It doesn’t get anymore Spiritual than that.