Autonomic Body Functions
The body is continuously regulating its internal environment. Bodily functions such as blood pressure, temperature, water balance, and body weight are constantly in flux. The hero of this harrowing story is a master gland that continually walks the razor’s of homeostasis. The hypothalamus is located deep within the brain, at the base of the brain, and handles continuous inputs, making necessary changes to return to homeostasis.
One task of the hypothalamus is to process inputs from the spinal cord at the brainstem and communicate a strategy with the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases hormones to activate body systems, such as the adrenal glands and sexual center. Another task of the hypothalamus gland is to communicate with the autonomic nervous system (the ANS). The ANS has the “fight or flight” response and the “rest and digest response” and moves the body into action to create conditions for homeostasis.
The ANS and brain stem control the functions of pulse, respiration, body temperature, swallowing, coughing, and other natural reactions and movements. The hypothalamus also regulates circadian rhythms of night and day. We can improve the function of these glands through practice. In meditation, we bring awareness to the glands of the brain and balance the two hemispheres of the brain. The communication pathways will become clearer and the body will perform more optimally. One practice that I like is to visualize the milky way spiraling slowly in my brain, to enliven and balance both halves of the brain. Each cell of the brain can also be seen as a star in the night-time sky—like the dome of heaven shining in our skull. Then, I bring the energy back to my navel area and the gut brain. I hope this is useful!