It is important to know the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to understand the real effect of Yoga for healthy living. There is no other system of the human body where Yoga has a direct influence than the Autonomic Nervous System and hence it is of great relevance to the understanding of the effects of Yoga practice on the body, mind, and emotions.
The autonomic nervous system is a part of the human nervous system that acts largely unconsciously and behaves like a control system for functions such as heart rate, respiration rate, digestion. It contains nerves that have special functions related to the glands and visceral organs (internal organs with circulatory, endocrine, reproductive and digestive functions). It regulates the body’s subconscious actions that are carried out by these organs. It is so-called because it is autonomic and hence normally not in the conscious control (except through the control on the breath – like the practice of Pranayama, which is a separate topic and will be covered in a different post). The job of the autonomic nervous system is to respond to external threats whenever they arise, and in a normal course, to continuously monitor the internal body parameters and make adjustments to keep these parameters within the optimum range.