Fight Flight Fright - or Yoga
by Monica Batiste
When danger approaches, the stress response can save your life. Your heart rate will quicken, adrenaline will rise, and your muscles will pump. You will be ready to fight in one second!
Each of us learns how to respond to danger in our own way. For some, the stress response might be to fight, for others it’s to run away, and some people freeze in fear.
This is your survival strategy when facing danger, but what if there is no real danger, you just ‘think’ there is.
In false danger, you will respond the same as when facing authentic danger - but there will be no release. You aren’t going to fight your boss, run away from a client, or stop and hide, even if you want to.
When we learn to feel stress without release, we develop coping strategies. Eventually this stress can damage your body, and erode your joy for life.
This is not what the stress response was created for. So what to do? You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.
First step is to find out what your stress response is. It’s important to know which is your habitual response to stress is so you will recognise it when it happens.
Recognising and releasing the stress response
When you notice your breath is shorter and your heart rate higher – your stress response is being triggered. You may notice your sense of awareness changes too – you might have a heightened sense of what is going around you if you switch on fight or flight, but if you switch on freeze – you may feel a dulling of your senses.
As soon as you notice the stress response– focus on deep breathing. Lowering your diaphragm to give more room to your breath, is your bodies signal that you are safe. Breathe deeply no matter what is going on around you. Relax your tummy and hips. Let go through the hip-flexors. Continue to breathe and become present by connecting to the earth, noticing the sky (even if it’s in your imagination) and visualising something peaceful. Clients won’t notice. The traffic won’t change. Your partner will keep talking, but you will be clearer.
For a simple guide to breathing; breathe in for six seconds, and breathe out for six seconds. During meditation breathe in for up to ten seconds, breathe out for up to ten seconds, and focus on letting go of each muscle and joint.
This technique is perfect for ‘regular’ stressors, but what if you have *Post Traumatic Stress? If you have PTS to any degree, you will need more tools. If you find this breath and becoming present doesn’t work for you, you may want to explore underlying issues. *EFT, NLP, ACT and other tools are easy to learn and can be used anytime, anywhere (go to the bathroom), Some counseling might help too. We live in the perfect time for healing options for all kinds of stress.
I have PTS, and have used all of the above options plus more. I find that this simple breathing technique always helps.
Yoga and meditation
Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, are all designed to switch off the stress response and open the brain, body, and heart to clarity and peace.
Yoga is the perfect place to practice your breath, for each posture requires deep breathing and mindfulness. Yoga includes various breathing techniques and includes a meditation.
Yoga also teaches you about yourself. You will discover what your stressors are, and how you are contributing. During postures you will notice when you switch on stress by what you say to yourself. For whatever you say on the mat – is what you say to yourself in life. ‘I can’t do this’ is an indication of your belief that ‘you can’t achieve.’ Change it to ‘I’m doing okay, I’m doing the best I can. I believe in me.’ This will help you let go of expectations and criticism. Letting go of expectations relaxes the muscles that are holding onto stress. Letting go of holding on lets go of the short breath. In yoga this means moving into the posture. In life this means moving into life.
When the posture is difficult, do you say to yourself ‘I’m no good at this?’ What about when people look? Do you decide what they are thinking? Is it criticism? Or do you self-criticise? What about judgment? Are you bagging anyone for who they are?
All these actions will indicate how you contribute to your stress.
In yoga you are encouraged to let go of expectations, of blame, of shame or comparisons. You are encouraged to love, honour and accept yourself, just as you are, right now. As you learn to accept the tightness here and the holding on there, you naturally let it go. When you let it go, you relax and move forward. Just like life.
Yoga also stretches tight muscles which stretches tight minds. It releases long held tension in the mind and body.
Going with the flow will support your breath, your body, your brain and your circumstances.
You don’t have to be a yogi, you don’t have to twist into knots. When you practice yoga if you can breathe and let go of expectations, then you are doing it. That’s all you need to do. Let go. You’ve got this. You can do this. You’re doing it now. accept. Breathe. Be mindful. Be here. It is okay. It’s going to be okay.
Ahhhhh. You’re doing it.
Post-traumatic stress. There is usually a D at the end to indicate ‘disorder,’ but I have dropped the D because I don’t want to think of myself as having a disorder. Just stress post the traumatic event. I can handle that.
For more information on PTS here is a good page
Emotional Freedom Technique. A wonderful technique that helps release stressors no matter how long they’ve been there.
Acceptance therapy. Here's a good website which offers some downloads and tools.
Neuro linguistic programming. Helping the brain find positive solutions.
I have recently begun using the Ajna light to retrain the brains sequences towards peace and having positive results. There is also a Neuro-light which I am yet to use – but know people using it and going ‘wow’ for the positive changes in their brain.
Thank you for taking the time to learn how to release stress. Every time you help you, you help the world. When the world sees you, the world moves forward. You’re doing a valuable thing. Never forget that. I see you.
Connecting Mind and Body into a Spiritual Union
Yoga is an ancient system of philosophies, principals and practices derived from thousands of years of eastern practise.
Yoga might appear to be all about the postures, but it’s much more than that. Yoga is about loving, honouring and accepting yourself, and each other. It’s about growing yourself to be the best person you can be. Yoga encourages you to listen to your heart, and to be mindfully present.
What this means for you is lower blood pressure, easier digestion, smoother skin, and a happier smile.
With yoga you will lose body fat and gain lean muscle tissue. You will regain the agility and flexibility you thought was only possible in your youth.
Yoga can be practised at any age with many yogis in their eighties still balancing and stretching as they did fifty years earlier.
Breathing and meditation
Your breath will connect you to mind, body, and spirit. The benefits of the deep breathing and meditation have been well documented.
Deep breathing lowers blood pressure, decreases anxiety, improves circulation, raises immunity, facilitates healing, and gives more energy.
Throughout yoga, breathe deeply into postures, relaxing muscles as you exhale.
Throughout life, breathe deeply into experiences, and relax on the exhale.
For a simple guide to breathing, breathe in for five-six seconds and out for five-six seconds throughout the class, and during the relaxation, aim for eight to ten seconds per inhale and exhale.
The stress response
When you notice your breath is shorter and your heart rate higher – your stress response is being triggered.
The stress response will save your life when danger is present, because you will have the heart rate, adrenalin and muscle fighting ability to face your enemy. You will be ready to fight in a second!
Each of us learns how to respond to danger in our own way. For some, the initial stress response might be to fight, for others it’s to run away, and some people freeze in fear.
It’s important to know which is your habitual response to stress so you can address it if it is real or not.
In real danger – you will do what you need to do.
In false danger, you will respond the same, yet there will be no release. You aren’t going to fight your boss, run away from a client or stop and hide, even if you want to. We have learned to move through stress without release. Stress can become an ongoing experience which eventually damages the body and erodes the joy of life.
Releasing the stress response
The first sign of your stress response switching on will be your shorter breath and your rising heart rate. When you notice your breath is catching or shortening – immediately focus on deep breathing. Lowering your diaphragm to give more room to your breath is your bodies signal that you are safe. Breathe deeply no matter what is going on around you. Clients won’t notice. The traffic won’t change. Your partner will keep talking, but you will be clearer. You will notice your ability to maintain calm and keep your brain active when under stress by continuing this breath.
Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, are all designed to switch off the stress response and open the brain, body, and heart, to clarity and peace.
Yoga is the perfect place to practice your breath and to meet yourself, for you will notice when you switch on stress. is it when the posture is too hard? Is it when you think ‘you can’t do it?’ is it when people might be looking? Or do you notice self-criticism?
During postures, what do you say to yourself? Whatever you say – is what you say to yourself during life. ‘I can’t do this’ is an indication of your struggle in life. Change it to ‘I’m doing okay, I’m doing the best I can. I believe in me.’ Will help you let go of expectations and criticism. Letting go of expectations relaxes the muscles that are holding onto stress. Letting go of holding on lets go of the short breath. In yoga this means moving into the posture and feeling better. In life this means moving forward into life and feeling better.
For a simple guide to breathing; during stress breathe in for six seconds, and breathe out for six seconds. During meditation breathe in for up to ten seconds breathe out for up to ten seconds as you focus on letting go of each muscle and joint.
There are many types of breath practised through yoga; this simple breath will guide you towards the first step in regaining your health and vitality. I encourage you to join in on all types of yoga and meditation classes to find the one that makes your heart sing.
GreetI am a yoga teacher, author and artist.
Blogs by Monica
Growing Emotional Intelligence