• Rebecca Laidlaw

Yoga for Panic Attacks?

When they say in a yoga class that the most important part is the breath, they aren't wrong. That statement used to automatically make my eyes roll, honestly hear me out. I don't know about you but anxiety and panic attacks are a part of my life. I have recently accepted that they are nothing to be ashamed of and something I need to actively work on every day from recognizing triggers to putting steps in place when I feel at my worst. P.S this took a long time to admit, maybe you can relate?

I know it sounds cliche but yoga helps. When my anxiety gets to the point where the systems I've put in place don't work, I can't function let alone breathe, and I start to shake uncontrollably, I know that I need a few sun salutation A's to get me through. For the simple reason that my body and breath are taught through yoga to work together. On my mat, I am on auto-pilot. Thank the universe, the heavens, or what/whoever you believe in because I wouldn't have gotten through what I've gone through without it.

So let's talk about the breath. Ujjayi breath is common in vinyasa/ashtanga (aka the most mainstream classes one would sign up to at their local gym) which is what I use. This is a quick how-to:

  1. Have a soft gaze or close the eyes (after reading the instructions of course) and begin to focus on your breath as is

  2. We start to inhale through the nose and exhale from the mouth

  3. On the exhale, exhale as if you are fogging a mirror using a slight constriction of the throat

  4. Inhale again through the nose and exhale through the nose with that same constriction of breath

  5. You're doing it! Continue with this breath trying to keep breath length and steadiness throughout

It's tough at first I used to keep forgetting not only when to breathe but to breathe at all when I first started however now it is second nature. After a few sun salutation A's it's as if by magic I can breathe again, right in the middle of that pesky panic attack. Do I suddenly become totally zen and blissed out? No. I wouldn't lie to you about that. What does happen is things don't get worse and in moving my body I have changed my mental state. I start asking myself better questions and I can begin the process of working through whatever has come up for me and moving on.

I feel for everyone out there who experiences panic attacks and anxiety. It's as if your entire world implodes and sometimes it seems like it is over the most trivial things. This process allows me to claw myself out of the pit of anxiety because it is one of the hardest spaces that I sit in. I have to force myself onto that mat but I do because I'm already sitting in a hard space. Moving my butt and getting on my mat is a different type of hard but at least on my mat, there's hope that I can move past the stress, the fear, the anxiety, and start to feel better. On my mat, I get to take my power back!

For everyone who is struggling, I'm rooting for you. You are not alone. And if yoga is not your thing I hope you find your own version of my mat.

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