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Nirvana®, Yoga, Pilates and the Parasympathetic Nervous System

15. 07. 2019 - By Nirvana Fitness
Breathe and see where it takes you ...

Lots of people ask me ...

Charlotte, what is the difference between Nirvana®, Yoga and Pilates? Which one should I study or which one should I practice?
I was in fact involved in regulating Yoga within the UK and wrote the world first ever standards in Pilates.

Personally, I am aware there are many schools of thoughts with the original Joseph Pilates Contrology and the 34 original poses and the ancient forms of yoga.
Today, with Pilates and Yoga, we have somewhat adapted some of the methods from the past. Hopefully, mostly are still incorporating the original forms using lateral thoracic breathing with Pilates and moving the breath through the body into the tummy area with Yoga.
There are however many differences between Yoga and Pilates and some teachers now mix the two within their class. Shall we say like a hybrid class!

Differences and similarities between Pilates, Yoga and Nirvana® 

I like to think of Pilates as mobilising joints, strengthening the muscles and activating the core, using the breath along with training the muscles to fire up correctly using lateral thoracic breathing, core activation and exercises originally coming from the 34 Joseph Pilates method.

Yoga started its journey as an ancient Indian science of exercise and healing, from teacher to student through oral tradition and physical practice. Yoga is also known as one of the oldest holistic healthcare systems, not just because of its fundamental healing approach, but also because of its many health benefits for mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Yoga is also mobilising joints and working on the breath bringing balance within the body. In Yoga, different breathing techniques are being used, for example the Pranayama breathing technique with the long and smooth exhale, beneficial in supporting the parasympathetic nervous system and activating the relaxation response. It reduces stress and has effects on the mind and body. One becomes focused, strong and able to rise to a challenge and deal with difficult situations as they arise. Amazing benefits that are so important for our lives.

This is where I definitely see a strong correlation to Nirvana® that places central focus on the breath, with a simple and intuitive breathing technique with prolonged exhalation (PLB technique). Together with the flow in movement and the relaxing music, you enter the state of Nirvana, the Flow state - such a powerful combination assuring amazing results. So, the effect is similar, it’s just a matter of different technique, a technique that is really intuitive, everything being here to help you achieve this feeling so it feels effortless.

The sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems

In understating the power of the breath, we need to look further into understanding the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. They are a part of the nervous system and they act to maintain a state of homeostasis in the body. To enable one to understand the various responses and effects of the two systems, we need to understand where these two systems originate from.

The Peripheral nervous system is divided into the somatic and the autonomic system. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS originates in the vertebral column commencing in the first thoracic segment of the spinal cord extending up to the second or third lumbar segments. The SNS function is to mobilise the body’s response when a stressful situation arises. It initialises the "Fight or flight" response. With stress (say someone annoys you), if you are upset about something, angry ... then the SNS activates and the heartrate will increase, the blood will move away from digestion and to the extremities. The adrenal glands are stimulated, hormones produced are norepinephrine and epinephrine. In such condition, you will notice your breathing changes. This is when you need to focus on slow controlled deep breathing.

The PNS is the part of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for the "rest and digest" phase of the body. It is responsible for increases in salivation, tear production, urination, digestion, and defecation. The basic parasympathetic system involves functions and actions that do not require an immediate reaction in the surrounding.

The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems work together to help you cope with and respond to daily life. For many people, daily life brings stress. If your SNS constantly jumps into action throughout the day, your daily experiences will tend to create an imbalance. By activating the PNS by slowing down your breathing you can bring balance back.

Meditation and the parasympathetic nervous system

Meditation activates the PNS in several different ways, which elevates mood, decreases cortisol, strengthens the immune system and increases physical and psychological well-being. You could definitely say Nirvana® is a kind of meditation in movement.The flow of the movement, the flow of the breathing along with the music - all working towards generating that unique feeling, the feeling of nirvana.

Therefore, in order to calm down the body, we need to activate the PNS using our breath to ensure a better state of mind, a healthier body, and allow calm, balance and both physical and mental wellbeing.

I have to say I like Nirvana®, Pilates and Yoga in my life!

Article written by Charlotte Purvis, Careers in Fitness Global Ltd.

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About the writer ...
Charlotte Purvis is one of the foremost authorities within the health fitness and active leisure industry. Charlotte has advised on the technical expert group for the UK and Europe in health, fitness and active leisure both advising the industry along with writing and implementing standards and assisting in regulating the industry. Charlotte is very approachable and has an extensive knowledge within her field of expertise. She is an astute business woman and her interests lie in health, fitness and active leisure along with Charlotte’s other interests in building multiple apps for other industries. Charlotte owns and manages Careers in Fitness Global, a leading health and fitness and active leisure education provider with over 64 qualifications on their digital platform that is able to provide flexible ‘on-the-go’ learning. Courses can be undertaken on your phone, I-pad or desktop allowing learning to be achieved from home, work or whilst out and about in the park, shopping mall or wherever life takes you. New training concepts can be accessed instantly on your phone between clients via interactive forums.

Photo credits: Lisa Peck, Alice Freeman, Yoshie Ito, Savitri Aneta Kaniut

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