For some of us, flying is a luxurious and exciting part of the travel experience. We fight over who gets the window seat and spend hours gazing into the clouds and land below. However, the opposite is true for many other passengers… who need a pack of anti-nausea medicine in their carry-on, a stress ball, chewing gum and an eye mask. With this specific demographic in mind, we created a short guide with helpful tips for nervous flyers to make your next flight more enjoyable!
When we feel anxious, our breathing often takes a hit. We may hold our breath without realizing it, or our breathing can become rapid and shallow. In turn, this feeds into our cycle of stress, as shortness of breath and feeling like we can’t breathe only heightens any anxiety we already feel. With that being said, using our time in a plane—especially during takeoff—to control our breathing and ground ourselves can be a very effective way to reduce stress.
Technique 1: Ujjayi Breathing
One technique that is very subtle and effective, is called Ujjayi breathing. This ancient yogic breathing technique has a balancing effect on our cardiorespiratory system, as it helps release tension in the body, increase the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream, and regulates blood pressure.
For Ujjayi breathing, open your mouth and place your palm in front of it. Try exhaling with the “haaah” sound as though you were trying to fog up a mirror. Once you feel the gentle constriction in the back of your throat, close your mouth and try holding onto that constriction as you take a slow and deep breath in and out from your nose. You should still hear a gentle sound from your throat. This breathing technique is also called “oceanic breath” because this is what it should sound like.
Technique 2: Nadi Shodhana
Another technique is called Nadi Shodhana, or ‘alternate nostril breathing’, which can be used to help settle our body, mind, thoughts and emotions. While there are several different styles of Nadi Shodhana, they all create balance and help regulate the flow of air through our nasal passages. This technique also slows down our breathing and when we incorporate short breath holds, can help us regain control over the rhythm and depth of our breath.
To practice this, bring your index and middle finger on your right hand to rest between your eyebrows. These will act as your anchor. Your thumb and ring finger will be used to block the right and left nostril respectively. Close your eyes and take one full breath cycle through your nose to start. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and slowly inhale through the left nostril. Cover your left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are blocked and retain your breath for a few moments. Open your right nostril and slowly release your breath through the right side. Pause. Slowly inhale through the right side. Hold both nostrils closed for small breath retention. Open your left nostril and breathe out slowly. Pause and repeat. While this technique is less subtle than Ujjayi breathing, it is incredibly effective.
While breathwork techniques can help, some travellers may have greater success with downloading guided meditations. These can be listened to before takeoff and throughout the flight. With such a large variety of apps to choose from, it’s really easy to find something that works for everyone. Whether you need meditative music and white noise or guided visualizations to help soothe your nervous system, listening to guided meditations can help quiet your mind and relax your muscles. Breethe, Headspace and Calm are great apps for this. If
Reading & Mindful Colouring Books
Facing how we feel is always important. However, learning to take space from our feelings is equally necessary. With that being said, packing your favourite book or bringing a mindful colouring book on the flight may help keep your mind occupied during stressful moments.
By: Briahna McTigue