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NERVOUS

The nervous system (NS) connects mind and body. Nerves reach from deep within the protected layers of the spine and skull to make their way throughout every nook and cranny in the body. The nerves send and receive information via the brain/mind of all the activity going on in the body.  

 

CENTRAL NS : is made up of the brain and spinal cord.

 

PERIPHERAL NS : is made up of nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body :

    • Sensory : information travels through this part to reach the brain

    • Motor  : the part that deals with action divided in : 

      • Somatic : the portion that controls skeletal muscle and produces conscious movement. 

      • Autonomic NS : controls involuntary responses to regulate physiological functions - i.e pupil constriction and dilation, and salivation of saliva. The autonomic nervous system is always activated, but is either in the sympathetic or parasympathetic state:

        • Sympathetic : is activated during a “fight or flight” situation in which mental stress or physical danger is encountered. Neurotransmitters i.e adrenaline is released, which increases heart rate and blood flow in certain areas like muscle, while simultaneously decreasing activities of non-critical functions for survival, like digestion. 

        • Parasympathetic : allows the body to function in a ‘rest and digest’ state. Consequently, when the parasympathetic system dominates the body, there are increases in salivation and activities in digestion, while heart rate and other sympathetic response decrease. Unlike the sympathetic system, humans have some voluntary controls in the parasympathetic system. The most prominent examples of this control are urination and defecation.

NEUROmuscular

conditioning

 

When our actions are repeated, neuromuscular conditioning happens we no longer need to think, our body will just do. We have created many facilitated pathways throughout our life through various activities, some consciously chosen, others were less consciously developed. These pathways reveal themselves in the way we move.  Our body remembers, which could be correlated to physical and emotional reactions while in certain postures. We can support these pathways on the mat or not. We create new neuromuscular patterns every time we practice asana. 

 

Increasing flexibility and strength in the body is the process of re-educating the nervous system through conscious attention and practice as much as it is about stretching and repetitions

 

SENSORY RECEPTORS 

 

The type of sensory receptors most important for movement and asana are our proprioceptors. These are found in the muscles, joint capsules, and tendons giving us information on pressure, movement and where things are in space 

The Muscle Spindle :

 

The muscle spindle detects changes in length and tension that take place within the muscle and relays a message to the central nervous system. The signal from this nerve is excitatory, causing contraction. The contraction (the stretch reflex) prevents the muscle lengthening further and protects against tearing. Some of the muscle tension felt is due to this reflex and it tapers off if you hold the pose after a minute or so. It also diminishes if you contract its antagonist muscle. You can accelerate the acclimatisation of the muscle spindle by backing off and then go further. 

 

Tendons & The Golgi Tendon Organ :

 

The Golgi tendon organ is a sensory receptor located at the muscle tendon junction. It detects increases of tension in the region and relays this information to the spinal chord which inhibits the muscle from contracting, thus protecting the tendon from tearing. This is known as the relaxation response. We can make use of this by intentionally contracting the muscle we are lengthening, release the contracting and then carefully take up the slack by deepening. This is also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

 

Ligaments & Joint Capsules :

There are two main types of proprioceptors in joint capsules, Ruffini end organs (or Ruffini corpuscles) and Pacinian corpuscles. Ruffini end organs, which appear to be mainly responsive to tension and Pacinian corpuscles, which appear to be responsive to compression, are widely distributed between the collagenous fibres of the joint capsule and surrounding fascia. The proprioceptors in ligaments are similar to those found in joint capsules. However, there are few proprioceptors in ligaments compared to the number in joint capsules. 

 

Yoga and the Nervous System :

 

To the yogi, his body is the prime instrument of attainment. If his vehicle breaks down, the traveller cannot go far. If the body is broken by ill health, the aspirant can achieve little. Physical health is important for mental development, as normally the mind functions through the nervous system. When the body is sick or the nervous system is affected, the mind becomes restless or dull and inert and concentration or meditation becomes impossible.’ - B.K.S. Iyengar 

 

When we practice yoga, we use the physical sensations of movement as a means to focus the mind. Physically asana retrain and work on the peripheral nervous system. It trains the mind/ nervous system to be more focussed and controlled. Working both the body and the mind systematically brings the nervous system under control. 

The nervous system senses the state of our muscles, tendons and fascia and can either relax or increase muscle tone and/or turn on or off the activity of contracting.

 

THE N.S + THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

 

Depending upon stress signals, the autonomic nervous system can activate our endocrine system and our immune system. These two systems also affect our flexibility and mobility and produce tension in our tissues.

 

Our immune system has two key components: 

 

- THE INNATE SYSTEM ; which responds quickly to problems. Our frontline immune response.

- THE ADAPTIVE SYSTEM ; which takes time to kick in but is more targeted in response to particular problems.

 

The stress response is needed for survival, however it stops being adaptive if it becomes chronic. 

 

When we are stressed or sick, when our immune system is ramped up, some of the chemical messengers being released cause our fascia to tighten. This may be beneficial in the short term—the body often contracts during times of injury to protect itself—but if we are chronically stressed or sick, then the contraction becomes chronic as well.

 

Another way that our autonomic nervous system and our immune system can lead to decreased mobility is through inflammation. Inflammation causes the tissues to swell up. If we suffer chronic inflammation, we are going to experience less range of motion, not only in the inflamed area but, thanks to our fascial body stocking, all over the body.

 
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