Breathing and the Nervous System

Autonomic Nervous System

  • Usually Automatic

  • Controls heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination and sexual arousal

  • Two branches: sympathetic & parasympathetic  (for a deep dive on these, see The Human Factor course)

 Parasympathetic (Rest & Digest)
  • Increase blood flow to stomach and GI tract

  • Stimulation of peristalsis (digestion), urination, and salivary glands

  • Decrease in heart rate

  • Pupil normalization for shorter-range vision


Sympathetic (Fight or Flight)

  • Digestion / elimination stop  

  • Blood goes to muscles and lungs, as much as 12x more

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline) goes up

  • Heart rate increases 

  • Pupils dilate for better long-distance vision

 Yin/Yang Balance

  • Inhale: strength, brace, expansion, sympathetic response
  • Exhale: opening, relaxation, contraction, parasympathetic response
  • Inhale for length and strength
  • Exhales for opening and release
  • Inhale = yang/sun/day/heat
  • Exhale = yin/moon/night/cool