The Autonomic Nervous System

Our discussion of the autonomic nervous system in chapter 2 focused on its associations with breathing, but its main role is helping to regulate functions of internal organs in general, including non-somatic structures such as blood vessels throughout the body and sweat glands in the skin (figs. I0.4a-b). Even though these regulatory functions are mostly outside our conscious awareness, some of their effects are important to relaxation. If you lie down to relax and notice that your hands and feet are cold and sweaty or that you are dizzy and headachy or that your heart is beating too fast, autonomic functions are not being optimally managed. In such cases training in relaxation may help you diminish the symptoms. How this happens is not clear because the autonomic nervous system is not directly under the io. reiax.4ti(>/\ ami metutatton 555

control of our will. Its regulation has to take place indirectly, and the only way we can manage it is to capitalize on everything in our bag of tricks— mental attitude, exercise, postures, and relaxation—and then trust the wisdom of the body to keep everything operating smoothly And that's what you want. You would no more want to rnicromanage internal functions of the body than you would want to enter into a debate with a pilot of a commercial airliner about how fast to fly. If authority for management of internal organs is delegated to the autonomic nervous system, internal functions will not annoy us when we tiy to relax, and we'll be able to work with those aspects of mind and body that are more obviously within our grasp.

Staying Relaxed

Staying Relaxed

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