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Relaxation is something so naturally human. When we are at our most relaxed we are happy, calm and at ease. But we are also built to respond to stressors with some forms of stress response making us alert, on the go and even tense. Because we are exposed to regular stress we have to re-learn how to relax everyday, often many times every day.
There are two main systems within us that regulate our relaxation and stress responses; The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems.
The Sympathetic Nervous System manages our stress response; it produces chemicals and responses that help us ‘fight or flight’: it is intended for short bouts of emergency, so that we can run from the proverbial bear in the woods, catch that bus or escape any impending danger. However, if we are exposed to constant stresses this system becomes overactive and so do we, negatively affect how we respond to life’s events and how we sleep.
The counter-balance to this is the Parasympathetic Nervous System that controls rest and relaxation helping to lower Blood Pressure and heart rate, slow breathing and calm digestion. We need to engage with the parasympathetic system to balance the constant exposure to stress; sensory bombardment, personal responsibilities, demands and deadlines. When our PNS is flowing we rest well, keep our cool and sleep well.
We can turn our relaxation system on through awareness and practice. Relaxation is a skill that can be learnt stage by stage. A bit like if you want to be able to do a handstand, you have to practice, if you want to relax you have to practice. There are some special yoga techniques that teach a sequential and logical path to relaxation that has three interrelated parts; Body awareness, Breath awareness and Breath balancing.
To find out more and to feel some deep relaxation for yourself download and listen to The Pukka Relaxation Experience (find it on the right to this article) as told by Sebastian Pole, our master herbsmith and yoga therapist. Pure Bliss!