We tend to think of yoga as exercise. But it’s so much more than that.

What more? Glad you asked.

Without getting too science­y here’s all you need to know:

There are two parts of our nervous system which work together to help us cope with daily life: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

  1. Sympathetic Nervous System: listens to all your problems­ JK! The SNS takes care of our “fight­ or ­flight” response. It’s basically always looking to see if we’re in danger and is ready to act.
  2. Parasympathetic Nervous System: the PNS is the “rest ­and­ digest” mechanism of our body. It slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure and allows us to come back down from a stressful situation.

I’ll give you one guess as to which one we use more.

Yup. In today’s world, we’re all a big ball of SNS. We’re always on, always on the go, stimulated, bombarded, phone in hand, checking email while ordering groceries online, oy-­freaking-­vay.

Then we hit the gym and we grunt and sweat and push ourselves which stimulates our…SNS.

Most of us don’t tend to our PNS.

Different Types of Yoga Have Different Purposes

  • Intense yoga (vinyasa, flow, power yoga) activates the SNS.
  • Restorative yoga (slow movement, connection to the breath) activates the PNS.
  • Meditation (bringing attention to the body and the breath) pulls us away from stressful thoughts and activates our PNS.

What we really need is balance:

The PNS and SNS are connected like a seesaw­ when one goes up, the other goes down. In today’s society, our SNS is always on, we are always stressed, anxious, thinking about the next thing on our to­do list. Our system is out of balance.

Giving attention to our PNS brings great balance to our seesaw.

What’ll You Get Out of Deep Relaxation Yoga which targets the PNS?

Again, without getting too science­y, here’s what you gain from deep relaxation yoga:

  • Helps with anxiety and insomnia
  • You respond differently to stress (less stressfully!)
  • You come out of stressful situations better and faster
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress hormones (cortisol)
  • More effective digestion

Just starting out? Know this:

Restorative yoga may not come easy. It may take time to settle into it. You may feel agitated at first. Unable to sit still. That’s okay. Take that as part of your journey. I promise over time, things will shift. Become easier. It may take a month, it may take a year (it took me nearly two years). You’ll get there. Once you experience the effects that calming the PNS has on you, there’s no going back.

PS. If you wanna get science­y, check this out.

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