Relax, Rest, and Digest for Better Health

Are you feeling stressed, anxious, and over-stimulated? Have you noticed a change in your digestion and bowel health? Increased gas? Diarrhea? Constipation?  Your body’s internal organs are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The Autonomic Nervous System is made of two systems: 1) sympathetic nervous system or the “fight or flight” response, and 2) parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” response. Together, these systems create a sense of balance for our internal system.

If you are stressed, your body activates the sympathetic nervous system. This prepares your body for action. Some changes your body experiences include increased heart rate, pupil dilation to improve sight, bronchial tube dilation to improve respiration, muscle contraction/tension, and decreased or slowed digestion. This system gets you ready and alert. It is normal! However, your body needs the parasympathetic system to balance these actions.

The parasympathetic system is responsible for balance and maintenance of the body’s systems. It restores the body and allows it to relax and repair itself. Some functions of the parasympathetic system include decreased heart rate, bronchial tube restriction, muscle relaxation, digestive enzyme release, and urinary output. These changes are necessary for long-term health and assist in appropriate digestion.

How do you activate the parasympathetic system? Engage in activities that make you feel relaxed! Take 5 minutes (or more!) EVERY DAY. Seriously! It is vital to your long-term health. Below are for some suggestions to activate your parasympathetic system.

Activate your Parasympathetic System:

  • Belly Breathing
  • Light exercise (walk on the treadmill, pilates, yoga)
  • Meditation
  • Read a book
  • Engage in a hobby

Restorative Yoga Poses for Stress Reduction

Supportive Child’s Pose

Position: Get onto all fours with your knees wide and toes together. Place a bolster (or a rolled up blanket) on the ground under you. Gently move your buttocks towards your feet, resting your chest against the bolster. Settle into this position.

Directions: Close your eyes. Let your hips release and relax into this position. Allow the bolster under your chest to support your body. Inhale and exhale gently.


Position: Lie on your back, arms out to your side, palms up, head supported on a pillow. Place a bolster or pillow under your knees. Stay warm, use blankets to avoid feeling chilly.

Directions: Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale through your lower lungs, exhale and release the tension in your body. Let your hips release and relax. Let your mind be quiet.