Overcoming Fear

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

How can yoga help a person overcome the fear of riding on buses, trains, or planes?

This type of fear usually occurs in people over thirty-five years of age, and there are two basic reasons for such fears. Especially in this age group, there is an accumulation of fat in the nervous tissues and physical organs of the body. In younger people the rate of metabolism is much faster and prevents the body accumulating excess fat in any organ or part of the body.

The second cause is due to a physiological process that occurs in the body as a response to a frightening or confusing situation. When fear is experienced in the brain it is passed on to the body via the glandular and nervous systems which prepare the body for fight or flight.

Experiments conducted on thieves preparing to enter and steal from a house at night have shown that the flow of adrenal secretions is greatly increased. Their whole body is fighting their unconscious fear. As a result, at that time they may feel like going to the toilet, they may sweat profusely or experience heavy breathing.

There are two ways of overcoming the fear complex. In the first case, one should try to metabolize the fat accumulation. In the second case, one should practise antar mouna, inner silence. Let the fear come and just witness it, observe the effects it has on your mind, body and emotions. After some time, you will realize that the cause of your fear is rooted in a forgotten childhood experience.

If you practise shashankasana for half an hour daily, you will be able to control the secretion of adrenaline and fright and fear will gradually diminish. If you practise shashankasana, antar mouna and pranayama regularly, after some time you will relive the childhood experience in your mind and all fear will vanish like a miracle.

—16 September 1979, Paris, France, printed in YOGA, Vol. 18, No. 5 (May 1980)