Panic attacks are nothing to be ashamed of. They can happen to literally anyone. In these sweat-inducing, tremor-producing moments, your body preps for fight or flight even if there’s no real danger. Panic attacks can be scary, especially if you’ve never had one before.
Symptoms of a panic attack
- pain or tightness in your chest
- a sense of impending danger
- trembling and shaking
- dizziness or faintness
- shortness of breath
- a pounding heart
You can use yoga to combat anxiety and panic attacks. But you shouldn’t force it. Before you jump into a routine, take some time to calm yourself.
Try to take deep, slow breaths that fill your belly (not just your chest). Draw air in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You can also try alternate nostril breathing. Focus on your breath until you feel relief.
Entering a simple yoga pose can also help. Pick one that promotes circulation but also helps you relax. Some good choices are Child’s Pose and Bridge Pose. This can open your lungs, slow rapid breathing, and decrease your heart rate.
Yoga poses are usually arranged in an order that flows from pose to pose. It’s really about what feels best for you.
After some trial and error, you’ll find poses and sequences that you enjoy more than others. Experiment and keep an open mind as you breathe your way through your next yoga session.
1. Channel-Cleaning Breath (Nadhi Shodhana)
Some yogis consider this more prep than pose, but it’s a perfect way to bring focus (and oxygen) to your brain.
You can do this breathing technique while sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Try to get comfortable, take two or three deep breaths in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
Once you’ve settled in, use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. Then, open your right nostril and close your left one (use your ring finger). Exhale through your right nostril, inhale, and switch sides. Repeat this pattern for several breaths.
2. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Sit on a mat with legs extended to the sides. Exhale as you bring the bottoms of your feet together. Pull them toward your pelvis. Drop knees to the sides. Continue to press heels together as you take several deep breaths.
3. Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana)
Stand on a mat with feet 6 inches apart. Flex quadriceps (front thigh muscles) to lift kneecaps. Exhale and fold at your waist. Be sure to keep your back, neck, and head in a straight line. Grab big toes with index finger, middle finger, and thumb of each hand. Press big toes into the floor to secure the hold.
On an inhale, straighten your arms and raise your torso to gently release your hamstrings. On the exhale, fold back down into the forward bend. Continue this pattern for several breaths.
Pro tip: If you can’t touch your toes, use a strap under your big toe.
4. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
This pose and the next one (Cow Pose) work well together. Both stretch your spine and your abdominal muscles.
Start in a tabletop position (on hands and knees) with knees directly below hips and hands below shoulders. Keep head and neck neutral and your gaze on the floor.
On an exhale, round your spine but keep shoulders and hips in position as much as possible to stretch the muscles around your spine. Release your neck, but don’t tuck chin to chest. As you inhale, return to the starting position.
You can repeat Cat Pose or move directly into Cow Pose to alternately stretch your abdominal muscles.
5. Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
Start in a tabletop position with knees directly below hips and hands below shoulders. Keep head and neck neutral and your gaze on the floor.
On an inhale, lift chest and sitz bones toward the ceiling. Your belly should sink toward the floor as you lift your head into a forward gaze.
As you exhale, return to the neutral starting position or transition into Cat Pose.
6. Bridge Pose (Setubandha)
Lie faceup with knees bent and heels hip-width apart. Place heels directly under knees and arms at your sides with palms on the floor. If you don’t have a mat or if your neck and shoulders are sensitive, place a folded towel or blanket under your shoulders.
As you exhale, press through heels and inner feet. Raise hips toward the ceiling. Continue to raise hips until thighs are almost parallel with the floor. Extend through arms as you clasp hands beneath pelvis.
Lift chin away from chest. Press your sternum toward the ceiling and broaden your shoulder blades. Try to create a small lifted space between shoulder blades as you reach sternum to the ceiling.
Hold for up to 1 minute. Exhale on the release and roll your spine gently back to the floor.
7. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel Pose acts as an energy booster. But go slowly until you develop the flexibility and strength to fully hold the pose. This helps prevent injury.
Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart. Create a slight inward rotation of your thighs as you gently flex your glutes. Press tops of feet and shins into the floor. Place hands on the back of your hips/pelvis. Keep front of thighs pressed back as you press pelvis forward. Don’t go too far and put stress on your lower spine.
On an inhale, raise sternum and heart as you roll shoulder blades back and down. Keep head up and chin close to sternum. Support yourself with your hands at your lower back or, to go deeper, touch backs of feet with hands.
If this is your first time doing this pose, try using one hand at a time. But continue to press back through thighs so they stay perpendicular to the floor as you reach for your feet. If you can’t reach your feet, raise onto toes to elevate heels.
Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
8. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Lie facedown with arms at your sides. Keep knees hip-width apart as you bring heels as close to glutes as possible. Grasp ankles with hands.
Inhale as you simultaneously lift your thighs, heels, head, and sternum away from the floor. Pull shoulders away from ears and keep shoulder blades against your back.
Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Make sure to breathe throughout.
9. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Start on all fours with knees below hips and hands below shoulders. Point toes and walk hands forward. Raise your glutes while dropping forehead to the floor. Keep arms active by not allowing elbows to touch the floor.
There should be a curve to your lower back, so you feel a stretch through your spine. Pull hips toward heels and stretch through your arms.
Continue to breathe as you hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then release by bringing glutes to heels and lifting out of the pose.
10. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Stand with feet 3 to 4 feet apart. Point left foot forward while pointing right toes to the side (this should create a 90-degree angle). Align your heels. Kneecap of each leg should be aligned with the corresponding ankle.
Actively reach arms out from your sides until they’re parallel to the floor. Palms should face down, and shoulder blades should be wide.
Exhale as you fold at hip joint toward your right leg. Rotate torso to the left but maintain an equal stretch on both sides. With arms straight, use right hand to touch shin, ankle, or the floor while raising left arm toward the ceiling.
Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
11. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose makes you feel like a kid at a slumber party! Keep in mind that you might need extra support under your hips and pelvis if you have tight hamstrings.
Sit with legs straight in front of you and the right side of your body pressed against a wall or headboard. Exhale as you turn your back to lie on the floor. Raise legs up the wall until they point toward the ceiling.
Your sitz bones don’t have to be pressed against the wall, but try to get as close to the wall as possible. There should be a slight arch through your torso to your shoulders.
If you need to adjust your support, place feet flat against the wall, lift pelvis, and make an adjustment. Your hands can remain at your sides or rest on your stomach. Take deep, slow breaths and hold this pose for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
12. Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Sit on your mat with legs straight in front of you. If you have tight hips or hamstrings, place a blanket under your sitz bones. Inhale, bend one knee, and bring your heel in toward your pelvis, resting foot against inner thigh of the opposite leg.
Exhale as you bring your torso over the extended leg. Align your navel with the thigh of the extended leg. Hands and arms can remain at the sides of the leg, or you can reach them out to take hold of the foot.
Lengthen forward and hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
13. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
Stand with feet close together and heels slightly apart but with big toes touching. Rotate your arms so palms face outward with thumbs pointed toward the back of your body. Inhale and keep arms straight as you sweep them toward the ceiling. Hold with arms straight and press palms together overhead.
Reach through pinkies so thumbs begin to angle back toward your head. Lift chin slightly to tilt head back, but don’t compress your neck. Ribs should stay in line with pelvis. Exhale as you keep arms straight, sweeping them open and back to the starting position.
Pro tip: Your shoulders shouldn’t hunch forward. If your shoulders are tight, keep your palms apart and your arms parallel to each other.
14. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Kneel on the floor with big toes touching. Open knees to hip width. Sit on your heels and exhale as you bring torso down between thighs. Lengthen the back of your neck to maintain a stretch in your spine.
Hands and arms should rest at your sides or next to your torso. Relax shoulders and let gravity pull them toward the floor. You can stay here for 30 seconds or as long as it feels good.