Conquering fear of snakes with science, not chakras

A reporter relates her story about conquering a snake phobia.

Snake phobia: a ‘serpent healing’ workshop

I was attending a Kumara Serpent Healing class. It’s a bit like traditional yoga but – and here’s the rub – you get to handle real snakes at the end of the class. We were not in an ashram in India, but the Alchemy Centre in north London.

The workshops are based on a form of yoga called Kundalini and combine vigorous physical postures, or “kriyas”, with meditation, breathing and chanting.

The class was fast-paced and hard work. One kriya including – you guessed it – cobra pose, involved repeated push-ups. This helped, though, as the pain took my mind off the reptiles.

I did feel a bit of an idiot when we were crouched on all fours, bottoms in the air, hissing with our tongues stretched out. But there was a point to it all: to activate our “chakras”, or energy centres, according to our smiling teacher, Kwali Kumara (who is London-born but refuses to reveal her birth name, saying she is “not that person any more”). This would “transform fear into love”.

By the end, I’d braved holding Shakti, a male red-tailed boa constrictor, and an energetic orange corn snake called Mylo. With each snake I felt calmer and more in control. At the end I felt elated and strangely disappointed that the experience was over.

Source: The Telegraph (U.K.)

At the end the author gives good tips for conquering fear. None involve chakras or transforming fear into love. She was right that the other activity was a diversion to her fear. Distraction can work to calm emotions.

What she is describing here is behavioral therapy which is known to help with treatment of phobias. From PhobiaList

Simple or specific phobias have been quite effectively treated with behavior therapy (Marks, 1987). The behaviorists involved in classical conditioning techniques believe that the response of phobic fear is a reflex acquired to non-dangerous stimuli. The normal fear to a dangerous stimulus, such as a poisonous snake, has unfortunately been generalized over to non-poisonous ones as well. If the person were to be exposed to the non-dangerous stimulus time after time without any harm being experienced, the phobic response would gradually extinguish itself. Also, this assumes that the person does not also experience the dangerous stimulus during that same extended period of time. In other words, one would have to come across ONLY non-poisonous snakes for a prolonged period of time for such extinction to occur. This is not likely to occur naturally, so behavior therapy sets up phobic treatment involving exposure to the phobic stimulus in a safe and controlled setting. Foa and Kozak (1986) call this exposure treatment, so called because the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus as part of the therapeutic process.

Science, not chakras.