How to Reduce Fear When Climbing Using Your Breath

by | Nov 1, 2017 | Climbing, Tutorial

As a climber there will be at least one time when you want to push yourself to the next level. To progress in climbing you must challenge yourself to open new experiences that allow you to develop as a climber. But to have new experiences you must get out of your comfort zone and move into the ‘unknown’.

The transition into the unknown is often associated with fear because you have no idea what is going to happen next. You may find yourself asking the big ‘What if?’ questions. ‘What if I fall?’ Or ‘What if I can’t clip the next bolt? And ‘What if I don’t get to the top?’…These fears can be so debilitating that the mind completely takes over, leaving you perched on the side of a cliff trying like hell to keep yourself together. They can even prevent you from tying in and stepping off the ground. 

A lot of climbers don’t have a strategy for coping with fear. We want to get out of our headspace and keep moving, but we don’t know how. One technique you can use to move calmly beyond your comfort zone is to focus on your breathing.

Yoga Breathing for Reducing Fear When Climbing

My article in SA Mountain magazine shows how yoga breathing techniques or ‘Pranayama’ can help you move past fear when climbing. I provide a tutorial for ‘Ujjayi Pranayama’ or ‘the victory breath’ where the chest expands like a mighty conqueror. Ujjayi Pranayama is sometimes referred to as ‘ocean breathing’ because a slight constriction in the back of your throat creates a distinct rhythmic sound. This sound does three things: it gives the mind something to focus on, the sound itself is calming and soothing, and it allows you to monitor the rhythm of your breath. 

In a yoga class, Ujjayi Pranayama is taught either sitting down, relaxing in savasana, or while moving through asanas. Similarly, Ujjayi Pranayama can be practiced at any stage of climbing: before you set off on your project to create a steady and focused mind, while you’re moving on the rock to keep calm and efficient, or after climbing to reset your mind and detach from any negative experiences and self-judgement. 

There are so many ways that yoga can benefit climbers that go far beyond stretching the body! I’m super excited to be sharing this knowledge with you.

Many thanks and enjoy the process.