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.
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.
“I 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 work” (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.
Y𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘧𝘭𝘶𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘤 𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘴𝘺𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘮?
Well, a few things actually…
But one other thing is… 𝗦𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴!
The brain is an incredible 𝘼𝙨𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣-𝙈𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜-𝙈𝙖𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙚 and the mind associates sensory feedback from a smile with positive, feel-good emotions. Smiling will influence heart-rate, respiration, and, it’s been suggested, can even regulate brain blood temperature.
𝐼𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝐵𝑜𝑡𝑜𝑥 𝑖𝑛𝑗𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑤𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑒 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑚𝑦𝑔𝑑𝑎𝑙𝑎 (𝑏𝑒𝑐𝑎𝑢𝑠𝑒 𝑓𝑎𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑒𝑑).
𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐒𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐞
A Duchenne 😊 (top photo) – also referred to as 𝙨𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙚𝙮𝙚𝙨 – involves contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (raised cheeks and crow’s feet around the 👀).
I’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.