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Yoga Therapy
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Experiences with Yoga Therapy

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Posted 11 years ago

I have a rather intense fear of flying. Depending on the degree to which I am feeling anxious, the fear can start as early as two to three days prior to a trip, intensifying as the appointed hour approaches. Well-intentioned salutations such as “Have a safe flight” and “Give us a call when you get there” translate to words of augury; every good-bye feels like my last. By the time I reach the airport, my fear is at an all-time high. Standing in line to board the plane, I begin to grieve the potential losses of those around me—the young couple in front of me, the older gentleman to the left, to say nothing of the children! Once onboard, I scan the heads of those around me for someone who looks “spiritual,” figuring that if I’m going to die physically, maybe some can at least save my soul. In the absence of a Catholic priest or Buddhist monk, I search for an off-duty pilot who can fill in if and when both pilots fall asleep. I understand that the likelihood of this happening is extremely slim; however, my fear of flying is completely illogical.

My first attempt to deal with my fear involved discussing it with a cognitive behavioral therapist. Highly recommended, the therapist suggested that I allow myself to think about the fear, assure myself that everything was okay, and then go on to thinking about something else. I tried this a few times. Rarely would I be able to move on to thinking about something else, but in the rare cases that I succeeded, I noticed my stressful thoughts would move from my mind to my body: my insides braced while my outsides felt shaky. Years later I tried a different technique that was centered on the breath. This rather successful technique involved shortening my inhalations and extending my exhalations. However, I found my fears resumed the minute I stopped.

More recently, I stumbled upon yoga therapy, a practice that has had a miraculous effect on reducing my fear of flying. I was first introduced to the practice in a mind-body class at the California Institute of Integral Studies. More recently, I started seeing Marcel Allbritton, PhD, at his clinical practice in Albany ( While Marcel and I never discussed my fear of flying, I did mention “anxiety” as one of the symptoms that I hoped yoga therapy would address. While relatively new to the practice, I was shocked by effective it was in easing my anxiety before and during a recent trip to Detroit. I no longer ruminated on the 1001 things that could go wrong with the flight, freeing up my mind to focus on some of my schoolwork. I also noticed I felt a lot better physically: my nervous stomach and shakiness vanished. The best part? My existential angst was replaced by the feeling that no matter what happened, everything would be okay.

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