Stress = activation of the sympathetic nervous system (automatic stress response)
This is the bodily state when tissue is being broken down, energy is used and the body systems are working. An extreme of this state is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, when are bodies prepare to face the stress and attack, or to run away. This bodily reaction increases our heart rate, releases adrenalin into the body, heightens blood pressure and kicks in shallow breathing into the upper chest, quickening our breathing rate. When this stress state is dominant over the parasympathetic state this creates imbalance in the body. This imbalance can cause the ph of the internal environment to increase in acidity. Several diseases are linked to high acid ph e.g auto immune diseases, inflammation, hypertension.
Relaxation = activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (automatic relaxation response)
This is the bodily state when tissue is regenerated and the body systems are at rest. An extreme of this state is known as deep relaxation. This bodily reaction decreases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and reduces the breathing rate. Slow and deep breathing along with an intention to relax both help to activate the initial stages of the parasympathetic response. Energy is then used more efficiently by the body, and is a far less exhaustive state than the stress response.
The Vagus Nerve
Read about the mind body connection with the nervous system responses and the vagus nerve here.
Tai Chi and the parasympathetic nervous system
Slow deep breathing and the intention to relax are major parts of Tai Chi and Qi Gong practice. It is known that Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and this in turn helps lower acidity in the internal environment. When you add the soft spiraling and stretching movements of Tai Chi and Qi Gong to deep breathing and the intention of relaxation, this increases the demand for oxygen in the blood which is seen to activate the alkaline response further, aiding tissue regeneration and internal healing.
Tai Chi to calm the mind and strengthen the body from within