Fight, Flight and Poise

More days than not, without any notice, we are thrown obstacles, usually emotional hurdles, that instantaneously send us into a fight or flight response.  A surge of epinephrine and norepinephrine rushing through the body as if stranded in the Sahara and having just caught glimpse of a very hungry lion. 

Although we have evolved some (not a lot) since the days of our caveman ancestors, our 'perceived threat reflex' is older than the hills, fully intact, and not going anywhere. 

I had just that experience a couple days ago. Threatened. 

Who would have thought simply opening a piece of mail could trigger this type physiologic response. Every hair on my body stood on end and my stomach was as if I had just downed curdled milk. 

I gotta get outta here.

And why did my brain choose flight? Because I just didn't have the fight in me, not for that specific threat, anymore.

It's in the moments just after experiencing a 21st century threat (anything not related to a wild animal) that our brain and body communicate with each other and we then have the ability to CHOOSE how we will react. Will we choose actions that are meaningful or disastrous? This is were poise comes in.

I like the word poise. The pantyliner company stole a perfectly fantastic word and marketed the hell out of it. But I'll use it here anyhow, because poise is exactly what one must have to react meaningfully (and remain calm with they have an overactive bladder).


poise (poiz/) noun

1. graceful and elegant bearing in a person.

synonyms: grace, gracefulness, elegance, balance, control

2. composure and dignity of manner.  "at least he had a moment to think, to recover his poise."

synonyms: composure, equanimity, self-possession, aplomb, presence of mind, self-assurance, self-control, nerve, calm, sangfroid, dignity


I took a moment to think. Chose NOT to react at all (because was this really a threat anyhow?) and on the advice of an individual who knows the whole story and also (apparently) knew exactly what I needed in that moment, went online to find a yoga class within the hour. 

I took control of my body and my mind, sought out balance and kept my composure... and went to yoga.

It was in yoga that day that I realized WHY we do yoga.

For the record I love yoga, it does a body good.  We spend 60-90mins twisting our bodies in all types of contorted poses, while attempting to maintain the breath and constantly calming (or trying to calm) that fight or flight urge and scattered thoughts in our skull.  Will you fight thru or flee the pose?  I don't know about you, but every time I lean into side crow I feel that threat of a goose-egg on my forehead from falling flat on my face.

I recall the instructor saying, "falling down gives you the opportunity to get up."

In all the poses I did that day, I decided to channel poise. I also chose grace, balance, control, and presence.

Be here now.

And what my practice of yoga does for me is create a space and time where my brain is trained to be still, embrace calm. My brain is simply supposed to remind me to breathe in and out and tell me not to react at all. But if/when I do react (modify, come out of the pose) it's done so meaningfully. 

Yoga is training for those threatening fight or flight moments that our ridiculous 21st century lives fling at us. Training on how to detect and detour from perceived threats. And training on how to have grace and presence which can squash that threat altogether.

Yoga is my stronghold and keeps me from disastrous reactions. 


Find your stronghold. Find your calm. Be poised and present in the face of threats to your livelihood. And know your body. Or at least get to know your body. Progress, not perfection.

If you do this, over time you'll find your ability to react meaningfully will come with ease.