Welcome to Week One
Get Acquainted with Autonomic Nervous System/States
I. Preparation for our Session
Watch Deb’s Interview, from 9:15 - 28:00.
II. Reflection Questions
Share reflections with your partner. Discuss:
How might you benefit to create more spaciousness, more acceptance around what each state has to offer in your daily life?
Describe one or two of your ANS states in a few sentences. Do your best, make mistakes, go for it. This is about learning, about practice. Let go of getting it right, as part of your practice.
@2018, Charlotte Nuessle
Tom Myers, (click on his name to read an article he wrote about fascia) gave a talk about how our brain/nervous system really pays attention to what’s happening in the space between our cells, in the fascia, the tiny interstitial spaces. These spaces are where nerve endings are woven into our connective tissue, fascia. Here are some understandings I gained from that talk.
So much happens in the fascia that Tom Myers is using a new phrase to describe it: Biomechanical Regulatory System. Keeping this network fluid keeps the communication systems flexible.
Twice as many
To give an idea about how much information our brain gets from our nerve endings: there are about twice as many signals coming to the brain from our nerve endings as from our sense of taste or our visual sense.
Think about how we are always responding to our taste buds - going for those tastes we enjoy (some kind of sweet taste attracts many of us) and avoiding (at least for me) castor oil.
Our brain gets twice as many signals from these nerve endings that are lead us into movement.
Six to ten times as many
Think about how much “sensation” or how much we feel in a stretch as muscle tone changes.
Muscle spindles communicate how a muscle stretches. For example, the hamstrings goes through a series of changing experiences: initially experiencing tightness, perhaps after exploring gentle warm ups the muscle releases some tightness, then we hold a stretch and feel the muscle lengthen, give up some of the tightness.
Our nerve endings communicate as much as 6 - 10 times as much information as the muscle spindles.
This is new territory for me and what follows is artistic license!
Consider how our bodies are engineered to move. We can begin to respect the volume of messages coming back from nerve endings in fascia to the brain. And how our brain and various pathways of our nervous systems are wired to instantly communicate through our nerves to muscles.
Perhaps this points to a new way we can embody movement. We can recognize that below the level of our conscious thought or control, our brain is listening very closely to input about what’s happening out there in the periphery, on the frontier so to speak. Out at the ends of our nerves.
Our brain is ready to shift into action, signalling movement to begin.
Embracing this built in intelligence in our body with awareness lets us tap into a direct means of communicating with our brain/nervous system.
Imagine how our brain/nervous system are registering so many cues. As we begin a practice we can acknowledge our body’s intelligence. Our practice can then nourish us at a subtler level, those things we value deeply like self-awareness, self-caring, kindness.
Our nervous system, above all else is seeking safety and to feel welcome. Let’s invite this awareness into how we move, breathe and reflect.
@2018, Charlotte Nuessle
Classic yogic philosophy was passed down in an oral tradition. Teachings were given in a pithy form, one or two lines at most, in sutra form. Sutras are intentionally short so that they could be memorized.
Training in the ancient yogic tradition meant developing an ability to listen closely to hear the words of the sutras, and repeat them carefully. The Vedic language of India conveys meaning in how the words are pronounced. Listening asks us to be present.
As a sutra was taught its meaning was also explained. In learning to memorize it, one practiced the meaning along with the pronunciation. Profound teachings were studied in this way. The practitioner soaked up a bit of the wisdom teaching each time it was recited.
“Briefly, the posture is to be firmly established in a happy space.”
- Bernard Bouanchaud
Yoga practice involves the body and yet influences every level of our human experience: physical, mental, emotional, physiological, spiritual. In this sutra, the word posture is a symbol.
We experience our whole life through form. The body understandably factors into practice, as the base, the structure, the place where we practice.
For example, when we feel unwell it is very difficult to have a clear mind. Our thoughts inevitably are drawn to the body’s experience, the sensations.
On the other hand, when the body is steady and relaxed, as this sutra suggests, it becomes a stable base for subtler integration of mind and body.
Leslie Kaminoff discussed this sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as it relates to our yoga, our life experience.
Sthira = We need enough stability to function.
Sukha = We need enough relaxation to restore.
Gary Kraftsow refers to this concept as a very practical guide to our yoga practice, in all its forms even and eventually especially, “off the yoga mat.”
Our structure performs best when there is enough support in our joints for healthy movement. This means we have enough stability in our tissues to engage in activity, yet enough flexibility to move. When we experience a combination of stability and flexibility there is more effortlessness in movement. We might feel lighter, more carried by inner strength rather than just by effort alone.
There are various conditions that affect our body’s ability to move freely, separate from these basic notions. For example, if someone has had surgery to stabilize the spine, there will be restriction of spinal movement, post-surgery. If someone has a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, the physiological component inhibits freedom of movement in the joints.
Our yoga practice or any kind of practice, exercise, movement, needs to be informed by and aim to address the specific needs of our body. We want to achieve a balance of being steady and relaxed given our unique circumstances.
For Our Purposes
This is an excellent reflection for any kind of physical practice, in other words, anything we do with an intention to become more self-aware.
This is eventually the direction we point toward. We might not feel brighter right away and that’s okay, for example, when we are managing a chronic condition.
We want to avoid aggravating any areas of concern. We do not want to harm the body.
Forms of Yogic Practice We’ll Explore
We’ll explore tools of the yoga tradition that have the capacity to shift our nervous system. Each of these tools is meant to be practiced in a way that does no harm to your body/mind/being. In a therapeutic sense and in a classic sense, each of these tools are correlated with this sutra, the capacity to experience a relaxed, attentive state as we practice them.
Meditation Dharana (Concentration), and Dhyana (Deeper Meditation)
Please reach out if you have any questions.
@ 2018, Charlotte Nuessle
This practice gently tunes you into how to engage your core, through directing your exhalation intentionally.