It’s been said that there are two fundamental forces in the universe: fear and love. The former is the result of a sense of separation or other. The latter is a natural consequence of a sense of unity. In the body, these two qualities are analogous to the nervous system’s parasympathetic (or rest and digest) and sympathetic (fight or flight) divisions.
While sometimes it’s necessary to fight or flee (and the sympathetic nervous system helps us get out of jams in a pinch or gets us out of bed in the morning), learning to activate and stay in the parasympathetic as much as possible is a key to good health and longevity.
There’s lots of ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (aka PNS) and enjoy its health effects, including strength and immunity, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved digestion and a healthier thyroid. Slow deep rhythmic breathing can help, also muscle relaxation protocols, including body work and massage. There’s nothing like a warm luxurious bath for leveraging the PNS’s salubrious benefits.
One of the fastest ways to go parasympathetic is to yawn. Opening the mouth wide and inhaling deeply, following it up with a long powerful exhalation or sigh. While ordinarily an automatic and involuntary response to fatigue, if we intentionally yawn, we can voluntarily turn on the PNS and enjoy all its associated bodily perks. Your brain will benefit too. A good strong yawn can stimulate the release of neurochemicals that are important for concentration, memory, learning and good decision making.
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