In these complicated times, we may find our nervous systems reacting in extreme ways in response to fear. This is called a “trigger” response. I want to share some ways to meet and ease a fight or flight trigger response. I call it “Invisible Yoga for Trigger Release.”
When we meet a threat, perceived or actual, our body registers “danger” and leaps into action. This is a positive, lifesaving process- it is not pathology- but when we cannot release the energy, we can feel immense anxiety and panic and even feel out of control.
One way to work with this is to release the activated sympathetic nervous system energy as it arises. When it is discharged and released, it does not get stored to create more chronic activation, and we can more easily meet the challenges of our lives as our nervous systems learn to “glide” between action, connection, and rest.
Yoga honors the whole of you- understanding that all of the components of your nervous system have their place creates space for you to live as the responsive, embodied being you innately are.
When you perceive danger, intense stress, or threat, you may notice your breath get faster, your pulse starting to race, or sudden intense emotions of fear, anger, or anxiety. Acknowledge that your body is responding to a threat of danger. You may notice that “knowing better” doesn’t help. This is because it isn’t your thoughts that are the problem. You are having a physiological response to danger.
Instead of dismissing it, try honoring it. Notice the way your body is taking care of you. There are clear messages of action in your system.
Start to tense and release your muscles. Pay special attention to your arms, core, legs, and glutes. They want to activate to save you. Honor this message. Tense them, and then let go. You can do this invisibly, without any one knowing.
Once you start to notice yourself being able to let go after the tensing, which may take some time, see if you can go all the way to rest for just a nanosecond after the tensing. Then try shaking or wiggling whatever parts of you that you like- hands, etc.
If you are still at high speed, tense and release again, and then shake or wiggle.
When you are ready, start to move any body parts in synch with your breath rhythm- fingers, toes, neck, anything. Match your breath rhythm with your body.
Next, look around you and notice what you see in your physical environment. Take in shapes, colors, details, sounds.
If you like, make soft fists with your thumbs inside. This is Adhi mudra, a gesture to help you ground yourself.
If it feels safe, notice your breath.
If you are still experiencing fear, move with your breath. Don’t force yourself to be still when your body is sending “move” messages.
If you are starting to calm, you might notice the length of your inhale and the length of your exhale. Just notice it. Your body has its reasons for breathing a certain way. Never use force with your breath.
If it feels right to you- and only if you are feeling the panic start to release, you could gradually start to lengthen the aspect of breath (the inhale or exhale) that is shorter. Do this slowly, no more than one count every few breaths.
You can gradually work towards evenness, but there is no need to get there. Let it be a process.
After a few minutes, wiggle or shake, move with your breath rhythm, and look around.
--offered by Deborah King, Vashon yoga instructor
Photo by Barb Gustafson