Many of us who have withdrawn from either benzodiazepines or SSRI antidepressants, both, have to deal with heart palpitations and other often quite distressing heart symptoms as an iatrogenic injury that accompanies withdrawal syndrome. I noticed early on that for my trauma and psychiatric drug withdrawal induced tachycardia that yoga really helped minimize its horrors. It’s not a cure all but it sure as heck helps one get through when things are rough as well as perhaps creating a foundation for long-term healing.
Tachycardia is when the heart beats like crazy. I’ve also had palpitations with a normal heart rate that can also be quite overwhelming. Both of those are common among folks coming off these drugs. I never had them before I went on the drugs and that too is the usual scenario with most people coming off of the meds. These symptoms are induced by global autonomic dysfunction that the drugs themselves cause. This autonomic dysfunction can also cause heart pain and all sorts of other chaotic and painful body sensation.
The following report is not on exactly the same thing but it’s not all that far off and yoga’s applications are many and diverse. I’m making the assumption, based on my experience, that yoga helps me for much the same reason as those with atrial fibrillation are helped.
I’m sharing this here today because I’m quite sure many with psychiatric drug withdrawal syndromes might be helped too. I imagine those with anxiety disorders as well could respond quite well to calming yoga postures. Below the excerpted article are a few postures that help my heart calm.
Yoga has helped my entire recovery process, from the time I was bedridden. So it’s helped rebuild my atrophied muscles and given me fitness while also sustaining me in numerous other ways affecting the whole body/mind/spirit.
From Medical News Today:
People who regularly practice yoga have a significantly lower risk of having episodes of atrial fibrillation – abnormal heart rhythm (irregular heartbeat) caused by unusual generation of electrical signals in the heart. Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of stroke among elderly individuals.
In this US study carried out at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, not only did researchers report a reduced risk of irregular heartbeat, but also a reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms among those who practice yoga frequently. (continue reading)
My favorite yoga position to help minimize the rapid heart beats is legs against the wall:
You don’t need to have your butt up against the wall like that for it go be effective. Feel free to make any adjustments your body finds necessary. Absolute form isn’t terribly important when it comes to finding some relief from the tachycardia or palpitations. Lay with your hand on your belly and your heart and pay attention to your breath for a while. Alternately put your arms above your head like in the picture and breathe. I’ve done this for ten or even twenty minutes sometimes. It’s deeply restorative.
Update: (a friend and yoga teacher just gave me this tip for additional modification if needed) If folks can’t get their legs up the wall because their hamstrings are tight, they will have a similar effect by putting their lower legs on the seat of a chair. You can put a blanket underneath your heels if the chair is too hard.
On some days doing this can alter the course of the day for the better. It’s really quite wonderful when it works that way. Other times it might just make something really intolerable become somewhat tolerable. Some of these symptoms are very stubborn. Doing these exercises at bedtime is helpful too.
I also find that doing twists on the ground, really gently can be helpful after doing legs against the wall. After you twist to one side follow by twisting to the other.
And roll from side to side and up and down too.
There you have it — a mini yoga session to help calm the heart and it works for garden variety anxiety too. This little combination of postures is also helpful in minimizing some of the pain of withdrawal.
If you want to experiment with more advanced methods that seem to help with the autonomic dysregulation I later found that back bends are wonderful. Yoga back bends: feels yummy on the autonomic nervous system. The fact is all of yoga helps with these issues. I am profoundly grateful to have discovered this fact.
Below I’m posting some of the yoga posts that include very easy videos that I started out with as I got out of bed. Look for RESTORATIVE yoga videos when you first start. These are deeply healing to the nervous system and those of us with withdrawal syndrome need to heal our autonomic nervous systems.
Here are some links that can get people started if they’re still ill or if they’re just beginning a yoga practice:
these sequences have also been very healing…belly breathing is also really really good for the calming of the nervous system:
Belly breathing and a bit of yoga …pick and choose what feels appropriate for you…at bedtime I mostly do legs against the wall.
The above can get you started with baby steps. Don’t feel beholden to do all of any of these videos. Pick and choose from what your body likes and wants.
Here is a longer but very gentle routine as well…again, remember only do that which your body likes.