By the time the L train had reached the Bedford Avenue stop on its way to Manhattan yesterday morning, I was pressed up against the exit doors by a mass of fellow commuters. My nerves began to get excited, but not in a good way. I could feel the tremors of panic starting in. So I did four things:
1) I closed my eyes.
2) I brought awareness to my legs. I felt down into the length of my legs into my feet to find grounding. The onset of anxiety was moving through my belly, chest and head, so feeling into my legs helped redirect my energy and attention away from my alarmed upper body.
3) I inhaled through my nose and exhaled though my nose, sending the breath up against the roof of my mouth, particularly towards the back. Keeping my lips closed, I created space inside my mouth as if gently holding a soft boiled egg. In Continuum Movement, this is called the Lunar breath. It is also similar to Yoga's ujjayi breath, but softer.
This breath can be very effective in calming the nervous system. As soon as I began to think of the crowd or I dared open my eyes, I returned my focus to my breath (and kept my eyes closed!).
4) I imagined that I was in a green forest, much like the one I had recently visited in the on the west coast. I saw and felt the broad leaves of a plant and the needles of the pine trees; I heard bird song; I saw a sparkling small stream.
I continued to explore the forest until we reached Union Square. I spilled out onto the platform with everyone else, calmer and pleased that I was able to stave off an anxiety attack. My endorphins probably got a nice a little boost as well, since, frankly, for me a quiet forest is way more pleasant than a jam-packed L train.
This was originally posted November 3rd, 2010.