Shalabhasana stimulates the whole autonomic nervous system, particularly the parasympa-thetic outflow. Remember the parasympathetic system and the sympathetic system are opposing systems of the autonomic nervous system. They maintain equilibrium of the different organs of the body. In general, the sympathetic system directs the body energy externally. That is, the muscles are prepared for external activity, the heartbeat and respiration rate are increased, the digestive system functions at a lower level, eyesight and hearing improves - the emphasis is on extroversion. In particular, it prepares the body to face emergencies or danger. The parasympathetic system acts in reverse; it allows the internal organs to carry out their functions, reducing the energy that is directed for external actions. One becomes more introverted.
It is essential that the autonomic nervous system is kept in efficient order. Shalabhasana does this by stretching the nerves and improving the blood circulation, allowing new oxygenated blood to circulate. The parasympa-thetic nerves are particularly prominent in the region of the neck and pelvis. Shalabhasana profoundly affects both of these areas simultaneously.
All the abdominal organs are massaged. This massage is accentuated by the deep inhalation and retention of breath. Furthermore the pressure in the abdomen due to the weight of the body is transmitted to the lungs and heart via the diaphragm, improving the functioning of both these vital organs. For further details on this aspect refer to sarpasana which gives the same benefits in this direction1.
This asana has been found useful for relieving sciatica and mild forms of slipped disc.
ARDHA SHALABHASANA (HALF LOCUST POSE)
This is much easier than shalabhasana and it gives almost the same benefits. Beginners should do this asana if they find shalabhasana too difficult.
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