The anatomy of a panic attack

I’m sitting on my sister’s bed one evening and we are watching reruns of New Girl. Its been a productive day. We’ve just come home from a fantastic workout and I’ve enjoyed a dinner with my family. When it happens. As usual, coming unannounced, with no real trigger. My chest feels tight and I find it hard to breathe. My heart starts to beat fast and I can’t seem to keep up. The walls are closing in on me and I can’t see clearly. There’s an impending feeling of doom, and just when you think you are going to die, it disappears without a trace.

I got divorced in 2015 and moved back home. I wasn’t so stressed about my separation but more worried about the judgement from people around me. This is when the panic attacks began. They would creep up on me when I was least prepared. In cabs, in metros, on a lunch date with my mother, and on stage when I was making a presentation. I’m 29 and I’ve been to physicians and homeopaths, and had every possible test done — MRIs, CTs — and even been to counselling sessions. There was nothing physically wrong with me.

How to Apan Vayu Mudra
  • Sit comfortably with some back support.
  • Place the tip of the index finger on the base of the thumb.
  • Join the tip of the thumb to that of the middle and ring fingers.
  • Let your little finger stay extended.
  • Hold this for 10-15 minutes.

I have been healthy for as long as I can remember. I don’t smoke or drink, I eat my greens, and I work out four to five times a week. I make sleep a priority and don’t really have any vices besides chocolate, coffee, and well, worrying. What caused it? People said it was all in my head. To In an attempt to say goodbye to these attacks, I cut out processed sugar and coffee. I swapped my high-intensity interval training for yoga, Pilates and brisk walking. I took more breaks at work to unwind. I was doing pretty well for the most part, but a stressful situation at work would bring about a flare-up. I am no stranger to yoga and meditation, but it wasn’t until I visited Shreyas, Bengaluru, that I learnt about the pivotal role that mudras play in our health. Put simply, a mudra is a symbolic gesture that is usually performed with the hands. Used extensively in the practice of yoga and meditation, mudras force you to look inward.

When I was deep into my yoga and meditation practice and the panic attacks would still come on without warning, my yoga teacher suggested I practise the ‘Apan Vayu Mudra’. I found it easy to perform and it could be done sitting alone or while watching TV or when lying awake in bed. Although my teacher suggested that I sit in lotus pose while performing this mudra, I have experienced relief even when I’m not in the ideal position. Mini Thapar Shastri, a yoga teacher in Delhi, and founder of Om Yoga Shala, who calls this mudra a “yogic tranquiliser”, says, “The science of Mudra Vigyan works by heightening the nerve impulses to release obstructions in the body.”

This mudra is especially useful for those who have panic disorders and are fearful, but also very effective for digestive distress. I was a sceptic, not imagining that just holding my fingers a certain way would help me with my anxiety, but I did try it every day for 2 months and worked my way up from 10 minutes to 15 minutes a day. It’s my secret tool before presentations or awkward social situations and even when I’m having a sleepless night.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 10:54:17 AM |

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