Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it is one of the most traumatic and frightening things that could happen to you.
Those words are not an exaggeration given that a panic attack can have the person going through it believing that they are about to die in the next few moments. Of course, that is not the only symptom of panic attacks and there are many more that range from slight to overwhelming.
What is a Panic Attack?
The term itself can be slightly misleading to those who have never experienced one, as ‘panic’ suggests they occur when something genuinely frightening or scary is happening to them, such as being physically attacked or being burgled, and they then obviously panic. It’s true that people can panic in those scenarios but that type of panic is not really the same as in a panic attack
The truth is that panic attacks occur almost entirely when the person who is suffering one has no real or genuine threat to them. They may start with a sense of unease that something bad is going to happen, and as the mind focuses on that, physiological changes start to occur in the body due to our ‘fight or flight’ response.
The hairs on the back of the neck stand up, the heart starts to pump a bit faster, the pores on our skin open so we perspire, and our digestive system shuts down.
With these and other automatic responses going on in our body, we may feel our chest getting tighter, have a shortness of breath, feel nauseous or dizzy. With all of this going on, our levels of anxiety soon escalate and eventually rise to a state of panic.
In this state we might fear we are going to have heart attack, as evidenced by the chest pains, the dizziness means we are going to pass out, or the shortness of breath means we are about to die. What adds fuel to the fire is that our rapid breathing means we have an excess amount of CO2 in our body, which adds further to some of the body sensations we are experiencing.
Panic About Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can strike anyone, at any time and without warning, which obviously makes them even more frightening, as they can catch the person completely unawares. As we’ve also mentioned they can also build up and this is where someone who has experienced a panic attack previously starts to panic even further.
Given how horrible and scary an experience a panic attack can be, the mere thought and fear that they are going to have another one are enough to send them into an even greater state of panic and have another attack. If you’ve ever wondered what cruel irony was, we’ve just described one of the cruelest.
Using Yoga to Treat Panic Attacks
Thankfully, those who suffer from panic attacks have plenty of ways to help deal with and then eliminate them. Examples include group therapy, hypnosis, herbal remedies and of course consultations with medical professionals. Another is yoga, and the reason yoga is so effective is that not only can it reduce a person’s overall levels of anxiety and stress, but it’s also is a great way to learn how to calm your breathing.
Although it may seem too basic to some, one of the primary ways in which panic attack can be stopped in its tracks is simply for the person who is having the attack to slow their breathing and control it. In doing so they reduce their CO2 levels which is often what fuels panic attacks in terms of the physiological symptoms.
If you’ve never used yoga before, you might want to start at home instead of going to classes, especially if you fear having a panic attack while at a yoga class. An excellent program which starts from a foundation level is ‘Yoga Burn Challenge’ which has multiple lessons on yoga poses which can provide many benefits, including helping you to control your breathing.
Yoga Poses To Help Panic Attacks
We are going describe two simple yoga poses that many people have used successfully as part of dealing with and getting rid of their panic disorder. The great thing is that each of them will help you in other ways too, including physically.
Extended Puppy Pose
Who doesn’t love a puppy? Don’t worry you do not need to go buy one … although if you want to they are definitely a great way to focus your attention away from your panic and anxiety.
Anyway, in terms of the pose what you need to do is kneel on your yoga mat, with your legs slightly apart, and your feet behind you, flat on the floor. Next, bend forward and pull your hips upwards. Push your arms as far forward and place your palms flat on the floor.
The position you are now in should remind you of what a puppy does when it stretches or sometimes how they sits when they’re in a playful mood and wants you to chase them. The benefits it brings is that it stretches several muscles including your hamstrings and back muscles. As you stay in the pose you mind should be calm, and you should also focus on your breathing so that it is slow and measured.
This is also called ‘Sukhasana’ and as its name suggests is one of the most basic yoga poses that exist. That does not mean it isn’t effective, and in fact this is one of the most popular yoga poses for quietening one’s mind, silent reflection and for paying attention to how you are breathing.
For comfort use a yoga mat, and then sit on it, with your legs crossed in front of you. Sit up straight so that your spine is lengthened, and as you sit, try to relax your shoulders. You should place your hands on your knees.
Once you are completely comfortable and relaxed, with your eyes closed, take time to place your focus inside. If any random thoughts flash into your mind, simply let them pass, and refocus. You also want to be focusing on your breath, with long slow and deep inhales and exhales.
These are but two of the dozens of yoga poses that can help with panic attacks. To learn more, you should take a look at ‘Yoga Burn Challenge,’ which is a program created by internationally accredited yoga trainer Zoe Bray-Cotton. She has over 12 hours of yoga teachings in the program so if you want to add to your arsenal of yoga for panic attacks, there’s plenty to choose from.