Deep work on the self is inevitably accompanied by equally deep encounters with anxiety. Heightened anxiety states not only shut down our ability to explore and process our self-discoveries, but often become a major preoccupation, taking most of our energy and attention to manage.
Inherent in our body are physical movements that regulate our anxious states. When we dream our eyes move rapidly back and forth as we put to rest disturbing experiences from our days. This is an unconscious, built-in body movement that regulates our anxiety every day. Without this body processing function, our lives would be overrun by the anxiety of one long run-on sentence without the punctuation of completion and rejuvenation that our daily dreams provide us with.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico discovered, in their dreaming, the Magical Pass of Recapitulation. This pass also involves a back and forth movement, similar to the rapid eye movement of dreaming, though not just of the eyes, but of the entire head. This movement is accompanied by an inhalation and an exhalation as the head sweeps from side to side. Those shamans discovered that those movements could be consciously performed to put troubled life experiences to rest, whereby reducing anxiety through release of energetic attachment to the past.
Francine Shapiro inadvertently discovered the same bilateral mechanism inherent in the body in what has come to be known as EMDR. In EMDR, like in shamanic recapitulation, anxiety is reduced through bilateral movement that enables processing and putting traumatic experiences to rest.
The ancient Hindus discovered many body poses and breathing techniques to master the central nervous system, which manifests anxiety. They came to call these body practices yoga. One such breathing technique is called Nadhi Sadhana or alternate nostril breathing.
In this pranayama exercise, using our right hand, we close off the right nostril with our thumb while breathing in through the left nostril. When the inhalation is complete, we close off the left nostril with the ring finger, in effect gently pinching the nose closed for a brief pause, before lifting the thumb and exhaling through the right nostril. At the completion of the exhalation we inhale through the right nostril, close it off with the thumb, pause for a moment with pinched nose before lifting the ring finger and exhaling through the left nostril. This back and forth breathing practice counts as one complete breath. The sequence is repeated, going back and forth through alternate nostrils.
Jan and I practice this breathing at least twice each day for a total of at least twelve complete breaths. Our personal finding is a significant reduction in anxiety, resulting in a calming of the central nervous system that lasts throughout the day. This yoga breathing activates the inborn automatic bilateral movement of dreaming in a conscious way, offering a high level regulation of anxiety.
We do not recommend this breathing to accompany the processing of memories or trauma, as the recapitulation breath takes care of that. However, it is highly effective, if practiced regularly, to reduce the overall tension and levels of stress in the body. And for that we recommend it.
The body is our temple. Though itself mortal, it houses all that we are and all that we will become beyond our mortal lives. The body as temple houses physical movements that we can consciously access and exercise that greatly support our spiritual journeys, and that prepare us for our ultimate life without a body.
Enter the temple of the body self with reverence for its movement wisdom. This is not a mental process, but a physical doing. Do it, and see what happens!
From the body self,