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How Y4PS Provides Balance (What Fear Actually Does In Your Body) Yoga For Public Speaking Module 2 Part 2

Jun 16, 2023

Module 2: Fear and the Nervous System

Symptoms of fear and anxiety, such as sweaty palms, mouth dryness, rapid heart rate, or shallow breath, are very common and sometimes affect even experienced speakers. But if they get too intense, they can get in the way of a successful presentation. 

The key is to learn how to ride the waves of sensation to bring your nervous system back into balance – and to arm yourself with a strategy to reclaim your confidence. 



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How Fear Can Hijack Your Nervous System

To understand how to manage symptoms of hyperarousal related to public speaking, we first need to understand a little bit about how fear and anxiety work in the human body. 

The neuroanatomy of fear is a topic that could fill several bookshelves, but we’ll condense the big ideas here to provide only the most important basics.

Autonomic, Sympathetic, and Parasympathetic 

The autonomic nervous system is a main control center in the body’s nervous system, regulating many bodily functions. Its two main divisions are the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Each of these has a key role to play when it comes to fear:

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – Also known as the “fight or flight” part of the nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system communicates with our brains and bodies to mobilize us when a threat is perceived. 

When the sympathetic nervous system receives a signal from the amygdala (a part of the brain that plays a key role in fear and emotion regulation) that it perceives a threat, the SNS goes into overdrive, preparing us to either get out of danger’s way quickly or to battle the enemy.

In a stressful situation, the sympathetic nervous system goes into hyperarousal mode and can increase heart rate, speed up respiration, cause palms to sweat or get cold and clammy, and in extreme situations, even make a frightened person’s hair stand on end. 

These reactions can be very helpful in terms of survival, but it’s easy to see how they can get in the way of a speaker’s flow.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – sometimes called the “rest and digest” or “tend and befriend” part of the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system acts to dampen overarousal and can help to relax a person once a danger is no longer present. 

Yoga, and specifically abdominal breathing, can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. 

Our Goal: Down-Regulate Sympathetic Nervous System and Activate Parasympathetic Nervous System

In general, what we are looking to do is to use yogic practices to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system responses

By pressing the brakes on sympathetic activation, while giving the gas to parasympathetic activation, we can bring our nervous system into balance to ride the wave of speaking fear and anxiety.

The breath, movement, and meditation practices you’ll learn beginning in Module 3 will help you do exactly that.


Module Assignment: Name It to Reclaim It FREE Worksheet

NOTE: Before you continue to Module 3, be sure to download the PDF worksheet (click the image below to download) andand make a plan for how you’ll respond when these symptoms arise.




 Get the Yoga for Public Speaking ebook on Amazon! You can learn more about Margie Newman here. 

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