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Nervous System, Focus, Acupuncture, and Herbs


Yoga attempts to balance out stress (Image source: the Total Body: Where Western Anatomy Meets Eastern Spiritual Science

Healing Series, part 8 

Table of Contents:

Attention, livelihood and emotions

Ashtanga Intermediate Series to cleanse Nervous System

Discomfort, unnecessary pain and karmic pain

Emotions elevate anxiety

Nervous System

Autonomic System and TCM

Sleep, herbs and balancing activities

(back to the Healing Series)


Attention, livelihood and emotions

I have come to the conclusion that my attention and livelihood are directly affected by my emotions, which all lead to my Nervous System. If I balance out my Nervous System through various means, my life is solid and vibrant—the person who I imagine myself to be! if it’s not balanced, I go into "fix it" mode. This is the nature of the Nervous System.

Nervous system cleansing

I know without thought that going to yoga each morning for two hours to practice Ashtanga yoga (going to my physical and emotional edge) is the innate key to solving the mystery to maintaining my true self. It works while I’m in my practice, there is a lingering effect throughout the days, and there is a burning of Samskaras which reconstruct my patterns over a course of time. Over time it keeps getting better and better.


Intermediate Series cleanses Nervous System

Each morning I practice most or all of the Ashtanga Primary (First) Series: Yoga Chikista, followed by the Intermediate (Second) Series. Ashtanga Second Series: Nadi Shodhana is Nervous System cleansing. Everyone goes through their own personal version of its effects in the middle of the series while it’s still challenging, especially while learning it and repeating each day while it's still new. Experiencing discomfort indicates it's working correctly, dissolving bad holding patterns in the Nervous System.

Dissolve bad holding patterns

As  I learned the postures, my Nervous System came into a state of balance over the challenges (backbending, forward bending, foot behind head, inversions); after I acclimated to the work, I was taught the remainder of the series. The idea is to eventually remove some of the Primary Series warm-up when practicing the full Intermediate Series. Over time, the initial poses in the Advanced A (Third) Series were added on. Ashtanga Third Series: Sthira Bhaga is the merging of strength and grace. I continued to practice full Intermediate plus beginning of Advanced A four days per week, only Intermediate once per week, only Primary once per week, with one day rest per week.

Self-love matters

During the most challenging days, it's most important to stay emotionally warm and nutritionally healthy. This includes alone time, rest time and self-love. Everything inside me is tested, not just my physiology. 

When I first began the Second Series cleansing, emotions arose immediately in backbends (and now I feel love and intuition), anger came up with foot-behind-head poses because I wasn't calm enough (and now I'm able to drop in to the extreme state of calm), fear came up during deep spine stretches (and now its blocks are released and I’m free, resulting in euphoric feelings as Prana moves through).

Allow anger and fear to move through you

For a good few months after maintaining a daily practice of the full Second Series, I would have a great yoga class yet feel my Nervous System elevated (like I was stuck on the inhale) for hours after class. It was necessary to calm myself so that I could sit still and didn't feel a constant electrical feeling pulsing through me. During the days I focused on:

  • Feeling my emotional heart
  • Using my bandhas
  • Remembering that stress recruits my body’s energy stores to overcome imbalance
  • Paying attention to my Ayurvedic Vata dosha (grounding, warming)
  • Doing headstands
  • Deeply breathing, especially exhales into my lower belly (Qi center)

Discomfort, unnecessary pain and karmic pain

There’s lots of discussion in Ashtanga about pains, and what is necessary for growth past patterns along with what type of pain is to be avoided. I identify with the notion of different types of irritations that we go through in life to detox ourselves: Creative discomfort, unnecessary pain and necessary, karmic pain.

Discomfort, unnecessary pain, vs. karmic pain

It’s important to recognize the difference, where discomfort helps you along in your practice, pain does not. It's more beneficial to adjust alignment where pain occurs repeatedly in order to truly feel the body's joy. That is what should be repeated. Karmic pain is what remains after adjustments, and once recognized as that, should be faced and felt so that it has a opportunity to burn off its karma. (Source:

I personally have experienced these discomforts and pains and have gladly adjusted accordingly. I felt the necessary, karmic pain in the Nervous System, where “pain” is agitation/overactive nerves. The Intermediate Series detox for the Nervous System identifies and speeds up the burning off of the “pain” (a.k.a., Samskaras). Whatever has arisen, I've continued on in my practice, feeling it’s meant to be and a gift for me. When I’m done with my practice and in the comfort of my home, I sit with the feelings and have grown to like the uneasiness (because they are working magic and then go away, but only if I sit with them). In the same way I grew to like the physical, muscular pains when I first started Mysore and realized the practice was working to change me on a spiritual level.

It's all about balance. When I utilize all methods I know to bring my Nervous System back into balance, I feel euphoria at the idea that this challenging part of who I am is breaking down more through my fearless yogic path, performed with the utmost of consistency.


Emotions elevate anxiety

Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroscientist and brain expert who experienced a stroke explains in My Stroke of Insight that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the Nervous System and body—is only a minute and a half. After that we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.

Calm excessive thoughts

Sometimes the nerves create excitation and happiness, and the desire to drift off into planning and fantasy and just plain happiness. I ask myself why I would want to make myself completely complacent (total calm) and do away with this wonderful part of me? I don't. It's my personality that I like. Kept in check, I keep who I am in balance.

Any activity that calms my emotions, which has a tendency to cause me to drift off into a story, calms my Nervous System and allows me to focus on the true essence of who I am. Emotions and stories are truly what get in the way and activate my Nervous System. When I am doing yoga, I am focused after about 10 minutes into it, and it keeps clarifying more and more.


Nervous System

The Nervous System directs complex processes (seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, responding). It regulates the internal environment and links to external environment. It directs the organs in the body so that they don’t act independently of each other; without a Nervous System, there’d be chaos inside.

Central nervous system controls

The central nervous system (CNS - brain, spinal cord) controls the entire body. Neurons receive and transmit biochemical information, and are classified as either sensory or motor. Glial cells (or neuroglia) provide structural support for the neurons. One type of neuroglia, called astrocytes, helps form the blood-brain barrier which prevents or slows the flow of unwanted substances into the brain tissue. They also help seal off damaged nerve tissue. Smaller microglia in brain and spinal cord act during inflammation or injury.

The Nervous System coordinates the activities that bring about a response to stimulus with these activities:

  • Reception - information is gathered from external environment at receptors
  • Transmission - information is delivered by sensory neurons to the CNS
  • Integration - appropriate response is determined
  • Response - nerve impulse is dispatched via motor neurons to effectors (muscles, glands) that will regenerate a response to the stimulus

Spinal cord coordinates with brain

The spinal cord nerve coordination consists of coordinating reflexes and networking to the brain. The brain is the organizing and processing center of the Nervous System (consciousness, sensation, memory, coordination). The cerebral cortex (outer layer of brain), the highest order region of brain, controls speech and thought process, interprets information from senses, controls voluntary responses, reduces inhibitions and dulls senses.

The limbic system controls emotions and memory. The cerebellum controls movement (voluntary and involuntary muscles—balance). The hypothalamus controls sexual arousal and performance. The pituitary gland signals the kidneys to excrete more or less water, increasing or decreasing urination, dehydrating or hydrating the body. The brain stem / medulla controls what you don’t need to think about (breathing, heart rate, circulation). (Source: Anatomy and Physiology: The Easy Way, Alcamo & Krumhardt)


Autonomic System and TCM

What most interests me here is the creation of anxiety or nervousness. It's all hidden in the Autonomic System (Sympathetic and Parasympathethic).

Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic

Like Yin/Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the balance we search for, there is a fine balance between the sympathetic (otherwise known as “fight or flight”) which alerts the body to emergency with epinephrine, and parasympathetic which returns the body to normal after a crisis. A sympathetic response includes impulses to muscles, heartbeat, artery constriction, pupil dilation, etc. A parasympathetic response reverses that and is peaceful.

When life can be stressful, the sympathetic system is highlighted, alerting the body to get ready for crisis. Yoga activates the parasympathetic to bring it back to balance.

Acupuncture / TCM: Each time I have this procedure, I ask to have a different aspect of myself treated (from physical injury to overall fatigue). When treated for fatigue, the effects are great as the energy channels funnel throughout my entire body. The Nervous System is felt throughout the body and fatigue aggravates it for me on both subtle and physical levels. It can be activated and uncomfortable during the acupuncture session at first but I’m left with a calming effect later.


Sleep, herbs and balancing activities

This is a big factor in Nervous System balance. Lack of sleep wrecks my Nervous System. I’ve noticed that I need less sleep at night since I've done Mysore yoga. Not only do I go to bed earlier and wake earlier, if I wake in the night, I'm alert, and this doesn't disrupt my yoga energy in the morning.

Sleep maintains health

I do take daytime naps sometimes but there is a significant difference between now and pre-Mysore where I needed to sleep a deep 8 hours or else I wasn't as functionable, drank extra coffee, felt fatigue, etc. If I sleep in, skip yoga, thinking that I’m giving myself a needed break, I’m actually more tired during the day, less energetic and feel out of balance on many levels due to no yoga. It’s much better to just go to yoga regardless.

When my Nervous System is balanced, I can see my full potential as a person on many levels. My spirituality is most beaming like a light I cannot put out. All of my confidence to be who I want to be has no barriers.

Ashwagandha Ayurvedic herb
This is my favorite herb, and I take it daily. Its benefits include relief from anxiety, insomnia, backache, menstrual problems and liver problems. I love the immediate calming effect and take it directly after my yoga practice, first thing each morning. My Ayurvedic dosha type is Pitta-Vata, where the Vata needs attention as it gets away from itself, which this herb is known for treating.

Calm vata

"If Vata is disturbed at any karma, there will be severe pain not only at the karma site but in the entire body. Vata symptoms like fear, anxiety, nervous agitation will increase." (Source: Ayurveda and Marma Therapy, Frawley, Ranade & Lele)

I have experienced this karmic “pain” but Mysore yoga has helped me to send it on its way over time.

Valerian Root
This herb calms the Nervous System. It's best to take before bed, for deep sleep (but it’s not a drug). If I take too much, I have a hard time waking up early in the morning though. If taken during the day, I'm tired.

Friends or family
Meeting up with good friends (one at a time to really talk) is calming to the Nervous System. To talk about what really matters is an emotional release that otherwise affects the Nervous System.

Letting a kittie purr on me
My two cats know when I need them. Their instincts send them to lie on me and purr. If I close my eyes and make it a meditation, I feel their healing.

Listen to body's need for balance

Red wine
It calms the Nervous System. It's a sedative so inhibits excitatory nerve cells. It causes an increase in the inhibitory nerve pathway of the brain. Red wine is “neuro protective”. It protects the brain with Resveratrol.

Needs to be moderated. I have a little each morning (my ritual) which is warming for Vata and wakes me up for yoga. It's happiness and vibrancy. It activates the sympathetic nervous system if I have a certain amount, which is the opposite of my preferred state of calm.