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cerebral cortex
autopilot
vigilance
nerves
desires
oxygen
muscles
The Yoga Nervous System
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The Yoga Nervous System

Early on in my practice, about 6 months, my instructor mentioned something at the end of a class which really caught my attention.

He said: "breathing is how you let your body know that what is happening is okay."

Simple as it seems to me today, I had not then made that connection. I was diligent - usre - in trying to watch and make sure I was not holding my breath at any point during practice, and - true enough - I could tell that more difficult positions would cause - or otherwise tempt - me to hold my breath, but I had no particular conviction about 'why.'

It's simple. Oxygen is the most fundamentally important substance which your body utilizes. The nervous system is massively dedicated to ensuring that you have it coming in 24/7.

It's so easy to misunderstand, or underrate. The brain stem controls the basic process automatically, for most people their entire lives.

I mean: why bother doing something consciously when your body is already doing it right?

Here's why: because you are doing what is called using your 'higher mind' to develop and condition your 'lower mind.'

Quite literally using your cerebral cortex to override the brainstem, and reprogram it. And best of all, you are using oxygen as the reward/punishment system for reconditioning.

And if you hold your breath, you are 'punishing' the brainstem, and as a result you and it will be less likely to engage in the sort of thing your were doing when you 'punished' it.

If you are 'awake' and maintain vigilance, you are able to recondition your body, and your mind, by reconditioning the nervous system FIRST.

Forget about your muscles, or your fat, or your immediate desires. If you recondition your nerves first, then the nerves will recondition EVERYTHING else on autopilot, even while you sleep.

The nerves keep doing their thing, and just continue at least some minimal pace of signaling (at least a couple of times per second) or they will wither and die. Your whole nervous system is vibrantly alive with the activity of repeating whatever conditioning is already present. If you modify that conditioning using Oxygen as a tool, the nerves are very responsive, and even the whole 'lower mind' (to which is also ascribed many elements of 'ego' or 'self-centered thinking') will become aligned to working at the command of the Cortex (the outer layer and chief 'gray matter' of the brain, to include those areas of the pre-frontal cortex (correlated with personality and pre-cognition or 'understanding of consequences.')

I hope you read this post and take away from it a sense of looking into some methods for developing your breathing. If you are a student of yoga, I hope you will consult not one but perhaps multiple teachers and literature in search of ways to couple breath control/nervous system reconditioning/pranayama with your practice.

And if you are an instructor, I hope you might consider passing that phrase along which so caught my attention years ago:

"Breathing is how you let your body know that what is happening is okay."


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