TuneUpFitness Blog

Learning to Fly

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We’re flying at 30,000 feet and we’re about ready to…TO LIVE!

The first moment that I felt any sense of calm of airplane in 10 years was a monumental moment. I looked out at the clouds after having some pretzels and marveled at the sense of peace that had alluded me. But it wasn’t always this way…

Fear started to build months before boarding an airplane. I would have panic attacks. Just thinking about boarding a plane made me sick to my stomach. I had dreams and nightmares regarding flying. And this all before even getting to the airport.

At the airport, panic elevated. I couldn’t eat when I needed to because the elevated anxiety had made my stomach so upset. My heart rate was elevated. Still not on the airplane…

On the plane, I felt like I couldn’t move or even look around. Hands clutched the arm rests. Whether or not the air craft was hot, I sweat buckets. I counted the seconds to landing again. Don’t even ask about turbulence.

The fear was a vicious circle of panic. It was not a way to live. I almost backed out of several trips. Fear of flying was preventing me from traveling to places I wanted to go and people I wanted to see. I also didn’t want to have to use alcohol or anti-anxiety drugs to control my fear.

Enter Yoga Tune Up® teacher training, I did this as a challenge for my 40th birthday. Little did I realize that it would complete me as human being not just as a “mover.” Learning how to down regulate myself helped me to calm anxiety, fears, and calm myself without external chemical implements.

Learning to Fly – Toolbox not Wand

There isn’t a magic wand to overcome a fear of flying. Look at it more as having a toolbox to help manage the physical symptoms of fear and anxiety.

Here are a few of my tools:

  1. Breath awareness and embodied breathing – Just as you don’t find the emergency exits on an airplane when you need them, you find them before the plane takes off. The same thing goes for your breath. Learning about where your breath comes from in your body is key here. Clavicular breath (originating around the collar bones) will only escalate panic and elevate heart rate (and that awful sweating). Abdominal breath with longer exhales calms and soothes (give it a count to help aid the pace). DON’T wait until you’re in situation where you need this awareness. Cultivate this awareness in day to day life. Stressful situations are a good excuse to practice your awareness. Start to incorporate this before heading to, at the airport, on the plane, and in flight.
  2. Full access to muscles of respiration and all their neighbors – This isn’t just for fear and anxiety sufferers but for all those who breath. Did you know your breath can exist anywhere between the clavicles to pubic bone? The Roll Model by Jill Miller has many great sequences for your breath canister. Don’t forget the pelvic floor!
  3. Therapy balls on the plane!! The ALPHA ball is amazing for plane seats since they’re big enough not to disappear in cushioned seats. You deserve to roll-ax, breathe easier, and do soft tissue work on the plane ride. On a recent flight, I started to roll before we hit turbulence. This really helped to tame the tension and turned the seat into a massage chair!

Flying has gone from the fear chamber to an evolving practice of awareness and interoception still have moments where panic starts to creep in but having a toolbox helps to put myself in the pilot’s seat of my own well being while in-flight.

Liked this article? Read Mindfulness Meditation and YTU: Match Made in Heaven

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