A&P for Yoga Teachers The Nervous System
What is the nervous system? • Made up of your brain, your spinal cord, and an enormous network of nerves that thread throughout your body, it's the control center for your entire body. Your brain uses information it receives from your nerves to coordinate all of your actions and reactions. Without it, you couldn't exist!
What are nerves? • They're the thin threads of nerve cells, called neurons that run throughout your body. Bundled together, they carry messages back and forth just the way that telephone wires do. Sensory nerves send messages to the brain and generally connect to the brain through the spinal cord inside your backbone. Motor nerves carry messages back from the brain to all the muscles and glands in your body.
Nervous System • Tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing, thinking, dreaming, breathing, heart beating, moving, running, sleeping, laughing, singing, remembering, feeling pain or pleasure, painting, writing ... you couldn't do any of these things without your central nervous system!
A Neuron is a single nerve cell. • One nerve cell can be many yards long. Nerve communication happens via a chemical pathway made up of segments of amino acids.
Three Large Nerves of the CNS • The vagus nerve is one of two extremely long cranial nerves that extend from the brain to the abdomen. The vagus nerve helps to regulate the heart beat, control muscle movement, keep a person breathing, and to transmit a variety of chemicals through the body. It is also responsible for keeping the digestive tract in working order, contracting the muscles of the stomach and intestines to help process food, and sending back information about what is being digested and what the body is getting out of it.
Vagus Nerve • Organs • Innervated • By Vagus Nerve
Three Large Nerves of the CNS The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body and sciatica (pain along the sciatic nerve) can cause weakness, numbness, tingling and pain.
Yoga Acts Directly on the Nervous System • Mindfullness-based cognitive therapy has been shown to actually change brain circuitry; and Brain scans of Buddhist monks who have meditated for years are very different than non-meditators, with more activity in the regions of the brain that govern happiness. • Animals that move the same part of their body repeatedly grow brain cells in the part of the brain that governs that part of their bodies.
Neuroplasticity • Up until about 15 years ago it was thought that the brain was “hard-wired” by the age of five or six. But there has been a revolution in neuroscience, based in the discovery of how experience changes the brain’s function and even structure over time. • Any meaningful conversation about how yoga practice can effect transformation now has a reference point in brain research.
What Fires Together, Wires Together • Mindfulness activates neuroplasticityand when the brain’s reward system is firing, those new pathways grow stronger. The reward system releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. • Deep breathing, music, poetry, communal experience and physical activity all stimulate the reward system—that’s why they make us feel good.