• “How I Conquered Claustrophobia”

    Exploring caves and breathing techniques helped this reader get over her fear!

    Name: Ginger Garner
    Age: 38

    Ginger had detested tight quarters for as long as she could remember. “Whenever I stepped into an elevator, I’d get anxious,” she says. When she needed an MRI (which entails lying in an enclosed tube) after a car accident 10 years ago, Valium helped her through it – but it was still an unsettling experience.

    THE TURNING POINT In 2003, Ginger started dating Jeff, a caving enthusiast. When he asked her to join him on an underground adventure, she reluctantly said yes. “At the time, I was ending a bad marriage and thought, ‘If I’m strong enough to leave this relationship, I can handle a cave,'” says Ginger.

    To prepare for the big day, Ginger called upon her training as a holistic physical therapist and yoga educator and began practising deep breathing. But when Jeff showed her the small, cramped space through which they needed to crawl, her throat began to tighten. She blurted out, “I Can’t do it! What if I get stuck? I’ll completely lose my mind!” Jeff assured her that they could leave whenever she wanted. She closed her eyes, took five deep breaths, and slowly moved forward. “I felt like I was inching into a coffin, but Jeff helped keep me calm by playing his harmonica,” she says. When they resurfaced above ground, Ginger felt triumphant.

    Ginger and Jeff have since married, and they often go caving with their two young sons. When nerves crop up on occasion, she uses deep breathing to get through it – especially a technique called Ujjayi, which mimics the sound of the ocea. “While my claustrophobia will never be completely gone,” Ginger admits, “I have the tools to help me cope.”
    *This article was written by Chryso D’Angelo and first appeared in SHAPE US Magazine August 2012

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