Supporting your nervous system

What is the most complex known matter in the entire universe? 

Your brain! This highly complex organ provides all the essential functioning to keep you alive and thinking – it’s a fundamental part of our nervous system.

How well are you looking after your brain? Is it helping you live well or is it making you feel anxious and stressed? Anxiety is something that we’re all affected by at various times, and whilst we can wait for things to change, we can also be proactive in what we do to look after our brain and nervous system.

Researchers have uncovered that yoga has an enormous capacity to affect the nervous system by improving the ability to self-regulate. 

Yoga practice uses methods that work via both the mind and the body, known in research as top-down and bottom-up regulation. Put simply, top-down regulation uses cognitive tools in the brain, like meditation and self-reflection to affect the state of the body, whereas bottom-up regulation uses the body itself, through movement and breathing techniques, to change the state of the nervous system, and affect thoughts and emotions. 

Using both is a great approach for dealing with anxiety, although bottom-up regulation can be easier and more quickly effective for most people. 

Dealing with anxiety 

Here are some ways of using top-down and bottom-up regulation for the brain and nervous system that focus on changing an anxious state. Starting with bottom-up approaches:

Yoga asana (postures): Using movement and yoga asana reduces tension, stiffness and adrenalin levels in the body. If you love energetic exercise, try going from something energetic like running and then slowing it down – which might be a cool down with steady yoga asana. If you don’t enjoy exercise, then opt for steady yoga with some relaxation to finish.

Pranayama: Focus on your breathing and use a suitable breathing pattern to take the nervous system to a more relaxed state. It’s quick and easy to use breathing to alter how we feel – and best of all, it is always effective. 

Get quality sleep or rest: Prioritise sleep for good health. Use non-caffeine drinks in the afternoon and evening and if you’re struggling with sleep, supplements can be useful and essential oils, maybe with massage or a relaxing bath, can also aid relaxation.

Eat for a healthy mind: Avoid processed food, sugary snacks or alcohol. It’s important that we don’t turn to unhealthy foods or drinks as a way to cope with anxiety as they will do more damage in the longer term. 

Supplements: Certain supplements can help support the nervous system. Ashwagandha is a non-stimulating adaptogen which helps the body’s resistance to stress whilst helping to maintain mental balance.

Top-down regulation uses the mind to affect the body and includes:

Meditation or mindfulness: In yoga, this is the classic and time-honoured way of taking time and finding space away from our thoughts, allowing for observation of our own patterns of thought and behaviour. 

Pranayama: Again!Working with our breath is also a tool for the mind and a way of creating space away from anxious thoughts.

Connecting with people: If you’re able to talk about how you feel, it helps to reduce anxiety. Saying what’s worrying you out loud can make worries feel less dominating to our thoughts. You can do this with a trusted, supportive friend or use professional support like a counsellor or a therapist.

Journalling: In a similar way to talking, writing things down can help. It can allow you to see what’s causing your anxiety and provide a way of reducing anxious thoughts. 

Whichever approach you use – top-down or bottom-up – the practice of yoga and other supportive actions can equips you with ways to develop regulation and resilience in the mind-body system. These are powerful and effective way of dealing with anxieties.

For an individual approach, yoga therapy is the specific use of these tools by a trained practitioner. Yoga therapy clients report experiencing improved mood, decreased stress and chronic pain, and more. 

You can find out more about yoga and yoga therapy by going to

Come into Healthright and talk to our knowledgeable staff about how to support your nervous system with our selection of supplements such as ashwaghanda, whole foods and non-caffeine drinks to support your nervous system