Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Function and the Breath
The ANS has the job to perceive the internal environment and - after processing the information in the Central Nervous System - regulating the functions of the internal environment. We go into managing that in our Teacher Training
Autonomic implies “independent” of the conscious mind. The ANS is likened to a team of horses. It will follow the leader. The breath is the only part of the ANS that is consciously controllable so we put the breath as lead horse and the rest of the team will follow.
WHO IS IN YOUR
Your breathing can be out of control like a blind three year old child trying to drive an automobile down a straight road. Or it can be a balanced combination of skillful and spontaneous action that propels, and guides you towards the directions in life that you most care to go. Life seems to be varying degrees of the two extremes. Which end of the spectrum most resembles YOUR life? Perhaps life is very good and there are just some things you want to make better?
Used appropriately, the breath and breathing can help the ANS maintain levels of function that, barring accident or disaster, never need doctors or hospitals. Prescription drugs may well be reduced to levels of rational and TEMPORARY emergency support instead of disease and death dealing dependencies. Then we can treat the CAUSES instead of just the symptoms. You can use your breathing to detect hidden signs of potential illness, key blocks in your internal power and your ability to get what you want in life, and whether or not you are feeling your feelings and in touch with your emotions and experiencing the fullness of your life.
The “magic” of breathing is not merely in proper input of oxygen and balance of carbon dioxide, though this is of major importance. Poorly chosen breathing exercises will set up blocked or excessively wide swings of energy experiences that disturb and distort rather than facilitate easier, coordinated, integrated, and strengthened states of breathing and being.
The sympathetic component controls the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to virtually every organ, including the brain and every structure of the musculo-skelatal system. But without the Parasympathetic Nervous System for balance it can overwhelm the system with an over abundance of energy causing dizziness, spaceyness, confusion, fear, anxiety or other forms of hyper arousal and distress.
Several publications have demonstrated that dysfunction of the ANS is common and can be responsible for many varied illnesses such as high blood pressure, kidney failure, angina, hormone and bowel dysfunction, chronic pain and many more.
ANS dysfunction can be caused by toxicity of the brain stem and/or the autonomic ganglia, infections and nutrient deficiencies, by scar tissue and mechanical compression and postures influencing ANS fibers and ganglia. ANS imbalance can also be caused by unresolved emotional problems since the regulating center of the ANS, the hypothalamus, is in constant communication with the limbic system via the limbic-hypothalamus axis.
To repeat. The ANS is like a team of horses. Make the breath the lead horse and you establish a consistent and reliable influence of primary functions of the so called "automatic" ANS.
The “magic” of breathing is not merely in proper input of oxygen and balance of carbon dioxide. Poorly chosen breathing exercises will set up blocked or too-wide swings of energy experiences that disturb and distort rather than facilitate easier, coordinated, integrated, and strengthened states of breathing and being.
Primary Functions of the ANS
Vasoconstriction or dilation, activation of sweat glands (evaporation of fluid/sweat cools the skin). regulating the arterial blood supply and nutrient delivery to the thyroid gland (if an organ cell i.e. a thyroid hormone producing cell, is exposed to a higher concentration/supply of nutrients or substrate, the cell will produce more of the substance that it is specialized to produce. Higher circulating levels of thyroid hormone elevate the body temperature.
Looking at the activity of the liver cells, kidney cells and secreting cells in the gut wall; motility of the gall bladder (and gallbladder ducts), of the gut, the bladder; activity/contractility/vascular tone of the lymphatics; again voltage control of the cell walls of every body cell: opening or closing channels needed for detoxification; activation of sweat glands, and dilating skin vessels for outgassing of toxins. When the breath is restricted ALL these functions are restricted reducing cellular activity and increasing toxic buildup.
system action for flight, fight , freeze, fake it, fumble or fun. Adrenaline
production for emergency action, cardiac output, increase of muscle tone by
sensitizing muscle spindles in the relevant skeletal muscles, dilating
(parasympathetic balanced sympathetic breathing) the blood vessels and
bronchial tree of the lungs for higher absorption of oxygen, immobilizing
(or activating) the gut and all healing functions of the digestion or immune
system, contracting the blood vessels in the skin anticipating probable
impending blood loss; increasing blood supply to the skeletal muscles,
sensitizing relevant portions of the five senses, such as hearing and
eyesight, but decreasing sensitivity for fine touch and pain is largely
controllable through the breathing pattern.
If arousal of the ANS continues and becomes chronic, the effect on
the pain receptors changes paradoxically: now the ANS has a “wind-up”
effect and builds up negative energy, tension or stress.
This may be one reason why peripheral neuropathy patients feel pain
relief with optimal breathing exercises.
Neurotransmitter staining techniques have added to Japanese insights of ANS function; that the ANS does NOT have clear border distinctions between sympathetic and parasympathetic (newspaper article). This makes perfect sense to me as I think of the ANS as a teeter totter with sympathetic on one end and parasympathetic on the other end with a fulcrum that raises (higher intensity’) and lowers (lower intensity). Each end of the teeter totter is PNS and SNS respectively and the raising or lowering fulcrum is the “pump” or intensity of the balanced or unbalanced ANS stimulus response. May be largley ehr the term "unbalanced" stems from.
The Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is almost always overlooked. When you see a picture of it and how immense and many hundreds of branches are in the chest and abdomen you have to wonder why. Even though the anterior portion of the hypothalamus is considered the chief-commander of the motor portion of the parasympathetic, the motor nucleus of the vagus (parasympathetic) and nucleus ambiguous in the brain stem are directly responsible for all down going signals in the portion of the ANS. You might choose to call this factor “parasympathetic inhibition”. I prefer “calming” and balancing (not necessarily reducing for to allow and maintain high states of positive excitement) the more intense energy of the SNS. In this day and age I believe we need more opportunity for relaxing then we do being stimulated.
The signals travel in the parasympathetic fibers of:
1. The vagus nerve to the viscera piggyback on several cranial nerves to glands, skeletal muscles and other structures of the face neck, region and
2. Inside the spinal cord to the sacrum , where the fibers emerge to participate in the enervation of the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs of the pelvis. (Any good anatomy book should show this but some forget the cranial or sacral PNS)
80-90% of all vagus fibers are sensory. Conscious breathing brings us in direct touch with our sensory experience.
The ENS (enteric nervous system) a branch of the PNS influences the breath dependent variability of the heart rate.
Vocal chords and muscles needed for swallowing are all enervated by the parasympathetic fibers coming from the nucleus ambiguous. I consider the vagus as two nerves. Spasmodic dysphonia abductor and adductor may be good examples of this.
The limbic system has strong regulating influence on the ANS. Unresolved emotion can have a “windup” effect on portions of the ANS, which can express itself in a huge number of ways of undetected psychosomatic illness (caused by autonomic dysfunction). The emotional memory of an accident is amore common cause of chronic post-traumatic neck pain than the physical trauma itself. Breathing optimally moderates this influence in billions of ways that we have conscious control over. Genetics takes a far back seat to the power of the way we breathe.
The sympathetic component controls the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to virtually every organ, including the brain and every structure of the musculo-skelatal system. But without the PNS to balance it can overwhelm the system with an over abundance of energy causing dizziness, spaceyness, confusion, fear, anxiety or other forms of hyper arousal. For instance, cathartic transformational breathwork can be an energizing cure or over stimulating curse depending on the way it is utilized in the personal growth process.
The SNS controls body temperature, muscle tone, activity of osteoblasts, sexual arousal, activity of the thymus gland and circulation of immune cells. The PNS controls glandular activity throughout the body, secretions in the lining of the intestines, many regenerative functions (such as activity of fibroblasts and various immune cells, hormone production), the vocal chords, several muscles of mastication and swallowing, and appears to stimulate the secretion of those neuro-modulators that are responsible for our emotions.
Several publications have demonstrated that dysfunction of the ANS is common and can be responsible for many varied illnesses such as high blood pressure, kidney failure, angina, hormone dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, chronic pain and many more. ANS dysfunction can be caused by toxicity of the brain stem and/or the autonomic ganglia, infections and nutrient deficiencies, by scar tissue and mechanical compression and postures influencing ANS fibers and ganglia.
ANS imbalance can also be caused by unresolved emotional problems since the regulating center of the ANS, the hypothalamus, is in constant communication with the limbic system via the limbic-hypothalamus axis.
To repeat. The ANS is like a team of horses. Make the breath the lead horse and you establish a consistent and reliable influence of primary functions of the so called ANS.
VAGUS and PHRENIC NERVES
The relaxation response is the most important factor and involves the degree of rise of the diaphragm as it relates to the vagus and phrenic nerves. I call this parasympathetic stroke because of the “massage” the diaphragm seems to give the vagus nerve (and possibly the Phrenic nerve) as it rises upward and downward sort of like one might polish the barrel of a rifle or pool cue shaft. (See how close it is to the superior vena cava as shown in the Secrets of Optimal Breathing Manual).
The upward stroke seems the more relevant direction as it pertains to heightened relaxation (parasympathetic) response – the drawing of the bow or pulling out of the plunger of the pump. I suspect this somehow relates to vagatonia (deep relaxation brought about by stimulation of the vagus nerve.) Training in Inversion Traction showed me this relationship
MOUTH AND THE ANS
Another, more "new age" way of saying
above would be:
"Fight or Flight: In weighing cardiac risk factors, doctors are overlooking autonomic tone" This article goes quite deep into the science of the ANS in a very enlightened way and concern for attention to the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects but as you can see it completely overlooks the influence the breathing has on all that. The heart is getting a disproportionate amount of the attention. more about
Theme programs including
the Optimal Breathing Kit
1. Energy, Vitality, Depression
2. Mental Focus, Concentration, Memory
3. Shortness of breath including:
Asthma Bronchitis COPD
4. Singing, Speaking and Personal Power
5. Sleeping and Snoring
6. Sports Performance
7. Weight Management
8. Calming Relaxation: anger-anxiety-headaches-high blood pressure-pain reduction, emotional balance, stress management
9. Better breathing in general = The Optimal Breathing Kit
10. Study the Breath, For Life
Free Breathing Test
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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
to your overall physical and psychological health. If you have any serious medical or psychological problem, however, such as heart disease, high blood pressure,
cancer, mental illness, or recent abdominal or chest surgery, you should consult your health professional before undertaking these practices.