The Autonomic Nervous System
We begin here with a some basic anatomy: both spiritual and physiological, as well as few simple audios to boost your practice, assisting your stress reduction and management.
One of the keys to integrating body and spirit lies in our autonomic nervous system. This is part of our body-spirit communication. Here are some nuts and bolts of this very important biological communication system and its energetic counterparts.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is broken into two parts: the sympathetic branch which triggers the fight or flight impulse and mobilizes resources to act under stress; and the parasympathetic branch which activates our natural capacity for relaxation, digestion, regulation of internal organs and anything that happens while the body is at rest.
Since the human body is equipped with two facets of the ANS, we utilize both in concert with one another, and need both to survive. In energetic terms, the ANS mirrors our masculine and feminine lines of connection between the upper and lower dantiens (Taoist term for primary energy centers), the root and navel with the brow chakras. These two facets are also represented in Hermes’ staff of Aesclepion entwined by two serpents.
The image of the autonomic nervous system comes from Wikipedia.
In yogic terms, these lines are called nadis, which are energetic rivers or channels through which subtle body energies flow. There are three main channels: Sushumna is the central channel and is reflected physically in the central nervous system; Ida and Pingala relate to the ANS, masculine and feminine energies. Feminine energy is lunar, cool, blue, receptive, shadowy and is associated with Ida; while Pingala, the masculine energy, is hot, red or white, light, active, and solar.
In Taoism, these same two lines are commonly known as Yin and Yang, along with all minor meridian channels designated as rivers of Yin or Yang. The corresponding elements in western medical science and anatomical drawings identify anything blue (nerves,veins) as afferent or inward, leading into the center; anything red (arteries, nerves) is efferent or outward, moving away from center to create an effect.
This image of Ida & Pingala originates at the Power of Kundalini.
In our bodies, afference and efference happen simultaneously as an integral, possibly crucial, piece of our body’s rhythms. Blood moves toward the heart and away from the heart; nerve impulses run toward the central nervous system and into the extremities; we operate in a constant active and receptive dance throughout our day. Everything is set up for perfect cyclical rhythms.
Until, of course we become stressed and then it all shifts.What actually triggers the systemic changeover into stress is often unconscious, though we know that the imbalance creates even more stress across the board.
If we were in a constant state of efference, our heart would not receive blood; our extremities would swell up, eventually depleting our life blood and energy, creating secondary stress and a state of greatly diminished life force. This is seen physiologically through adrenal burnout as well; emotionally and mentally through misinterpretation, mental and emotional disorders, brain chemistry imbalance and depletion of our essential minerals and brain food reserves.
Again, it’s a cycle, and because the body always seeks stasis, any form of disruption in our natural rhythms leads to excessive cycling and more stress. We can change our chemistry, our natural rhythms and our endocrine balance just by over thinking and or emotional indulgence.
On the other hand, if we’re in a constant state of afference, we could become overwhelmed by foreign energies, the heart would flood with blood, our limbs would loose sensation becoming weak, we’d get sluggish, lethargic and spend much of our time wallowing. Similar changes would happen metaphysically or energetically when we open ourselves up to an extreme, allowing others to plug into our auric fields. Ironically, too much receptivity can also create stress.
The key is balance and integration, and what Carl Jung refers to as individuation: the integration of masculine and feminine principles. While Jung was probably referring to this psycho-spiritually, we can apply his concepts across the board because the head bone’s connected to heart bone, and all facets of beingness influence one another. Imbalance on any level is stressful for the human physiology, the emotional and mental constitution, as well as spiritually.
Stress can be addressed from any level and create results on all others. For example, we can find a way to slow our minds and this will be an effective remedy for emotional distress, physical tension and spiritual or energetic integration. Or, you could engage in a restorative yoga practice to effect change in the emotional, mental and spiritual realms as well. With any immersion, there are always varying depths of exploration and need for fairly constant attention, especially if the stress is chronic and environmental.
There are many different methods for stress relief, management and reduction, though not so many ways to truly abate stress and balance the ANS. Here are some ideas for different levels of commitment or engagement; you can choose how and where you’d like to begin focus your energies and take your next step. The audios build on each other in this order: Grounding to Anchoring to Vitality.
Getting to the Cause: Audio Files for Destressing
Stress Relief: taking a break, swimming on a hot day, going for a walk in the woods, listening to calming music, taking a sea salt bath, deep breathing, an easy restorative yoga class.
You may temporally access the following audios at Energetic Connection Podcast Page. A new link will be posted in the next 30 days.
Stress Reduction: the ongoing result of stress relieving exercises. Listen to this audio on Grounding.
Stress Management: regular long term practice of stress relief and integration of stress reduction experiences; a clearer place of integration and ability to find stress relief on the fly; conscious intention and attention. Listen to this audio on Anchoring.
Stress Abatement: rewiring the nervous system completely, creating a new neural network for calm and relaxation; use of stress relief, reduction and management methods with a deeper focus and spiritual intention. Listen to this audio on Vitality.
For more information about stress, please see our newsletter post: Elementals