Is activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System common to all Spiritual Methodologies ?

John D Mudie. Ph.D

The purpose of this webpage is to review the idea that activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS)is the core mechanism for all spiritual techniques for creating calm, peace, lessening fear, increasing connection trust, etc.

A generic paper that covers a lot of spiritual disciplines

Michael S Chin 1 2Stefanos N Kales 3 4 in their paper “Understanding mind-body disciplines: A pilot study of paced breathing and dynamic muscle contraction on autonomic nervous system reactivity” stated that “Mind-body disciplines such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong have been demonstrated to activate the parasympathetic nervous system” and concluded that “…, paced breathing synchronized with rhythmic muscle contraction leads to more resilient activation of the parasympathetic response than either alternating contractions or breathing alone, which may help explain the stress reducing benefits of mind-body disciplines.”//

Does Yoga increase PSNS?

A search on PubMed for “parasympathetic nervous system yoga” yielded 46 results.

Sigrid Breit 1Aleksandra Kupferberg 1Gerhard Rogler 2Gregor Hasler  in their paper titled Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders state ” Since, the vagal tone is correlated with capacity to regulate stress responses and can be influenced by breathing, its increase through meditation and yoga likely contribute to resilience and the mitigation of mood and anxiety symptoms.”

Mako Hayase 1Mieko Shimada 1 in their 2018 paper “Effects of maternity yoga on the autonomic nervous system during pregnancy” concluded that their “results suggest that practicing yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system during the third trimester of pregnancy, consolidating sleep during the night and decreasing α-amylase levels, which indicates reduced stress.”

Roderik J S Gerritsen 1 2Guido P H Band 1 2 in their paper Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity propose “a neurophysiological model that explains how these specific respiration styles could operate, by physically and tonically stimulating the vagal nerve: respiratory vagal nerve stimulation (rVNS). The vagal nerve, as a proponent of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), is the prime candidate in explaining the effects of contemplative practices on health, mental health and cognition. “

See Pubmed for more papers like the ones above

Does Meditation activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System?

Well it looks like it. Pubmed found 66 articles that discussed this!

Does Qigong activate the Para Sympathetic Nervous System?

Pubmed found 6 articles which discussed how QuiGong increased Parasympathetic Nervous System activity

Does Zen Breathing help?

odern clinical respiratory therapy discusses this.

Analogy between


There seems to be a lot of evidence that behaviors that are called spiritual are accompanied by an activated parasympathetic nervous system

Comments, suggestion, criticism welcomed

(c) John Mudie 2021

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