Most of us know what panic and fear feel like. Our heart pounds. Our hands shake. Our intestines spasm. We stutter. We become hyper-focused or spaced-out. We get into a fight or we withdraw from conflict. These are physical biological responses to stress and threats. They are an evolutionary development that we share with all mammals. These responses help us to get out of or survive dangerous situations. They are the ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system. The problem is that our bodies do distinguish between deadly threats and our modern ongoing daily stress. In response to our daily stress our adrenal glands secrete the same hormones that they would if we were cornered by a cougar. Our body prepares to fight or to flee. The constant onslaught of stress puts our bodies into a constant state of hyper-vigilance. This hyper-vigilance takes a toll on our physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as on our families and communities. In its most extreme form, this hyper-vigilance presents as PTSD with its associated extremes of behavioral dysfunction. Yoga helps. The poses, breathing and meditation practices of yoga are a powerful tool for calming the nervous system and allowing the adrenal glands to rest and recover. Our bodies actively shift from ‘fight or flight’ mode to ‘rest and digest’ mode. That deep delicious rest we feel after Savasana (relaxation pose) is the result of the work of the postures, breathing, and awareness integrated within the body. Literally the sympathetic nervous system has relaxed and the parasympathetic nervous system (the one in charge of relaxation, digestion, healing, and recovery) has engaged. Yoga, literally, helps your body heal itself. Whether you suffer from ‘normal’ daily stress, anxiety, panic attacks, or PTSD, yoga helps. Yoga will help the most if you can make it a daily practice. If you cannot come to a yoga class, start with a few easy yoga poses, practice breathing exercises like Alternate Nostril Breath, and end with 5 minutes of simple relaxation. 15 to 20 minutes daily is powerful medicine. To learn more and find a develop a practice focused particularly for anxiety and stress relief take the upcoming workshop Yoga Body Mind Skills: Anxiety and Emotional Regulation with Martha Shimmeal. This 8-week course will meet Wednesdays, 6:30-8:00pm, beginning March 6th. For more information or to register click here.