Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

Definition - What does Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) mean?

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that allows the body to relax after a stressful situation and controls the digestive system. It lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate.

In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the branch of the ANS that helps a person deal with crisis by providing energy, blood flow and oxygen to the body in conjunction with stress hormones.

Yoga plays a key role in triggering the PNS response for calming and reducing stress.

Yogapedia explains Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

The PNS originates in the brain stem and lower spinal cord, and provides opposing physiological effects to the SNS. The PNS regulates many of the body's glands and their functions, as well as stimulates and improves digestion and nutrient absorption.

Although some yoga asanas and breathing exercises can activate the SNS, many stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Such practices include slow breathing and pranayama, mudras, mindful chanting and meditation. Research has shown that SNS-activating yoga practices followed by PNS-activating techniques result in deeper relaxation and more benefits than just the calming practices alone.

In addition to pranayama and meditation, yogis can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress by practicing calming asanas such as reclined bound angle pose, child's pose, corpse pose and easy pose with the grounding mudra, among others.

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