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Monday, Oct 03, 2011 Breathe Away Fear of Flying

A few days ago, my assistant asked me to call her cousin, Heather, who has a crippling fear of flying. Heather was about to take a trip from Boston to Los Angeles and was becoming increasingly panicked as the date of her departure neared. My assistant thought I could calm her fears by sharing my intuition about the flight. However, I knew that a more holistic approach was warranted.

A 1982 study by the Journal of Travel Research found that 1 in 6 Americans (25,000,000 people at the time of the study) are afraid to fly, making it one of the most common fears among U.S. adults. Statistics about the safety of air travel usually do not help with this phobia, so people with a fear of flying need more than assurances: they need tools they can use to deal with their anxiety and remain calm. This is where yoga can help.

I spoke to Heather and, in addition to my strong sense that she would be safe, I gave her a simple four-square (or “box”) breathing technique to use whenever she felt anxiety or panic:

  1. Exhale completely until you’ve emptied the lungs.
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose for a count of five, making each count about one second in length.
  3. Hold the breath for a count of five.
  4. Breathe out steadily through the nose for a count of five.
  5. Hold the exhale for a count of five.
  6. Repeat 12 times, or until anxiety passes.
  7. Repeat throughout the day (at least 4 times), as necessary.

This controlled breathing technique displaces the shallow breathing that often accompanies stress, anxiety, and panic. It is a simple exercise with a multitude of benefits.

Heather felt empowered by having a technique she could use when her fear of flying got the best of her. I’m happy to say that she had a smooth flight and was even able to sleep for a couple of hours on the plane.

To learn more about pranayama (breathwork) and experience the benefits of yoga for yourself, check our class schedule and stop by the studio for yoga class. No appointment is necessary. Or, register and pay for classes online by clicking here.

All Love,