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This is a continuation of a series of posts. I would suggest you go back (down) and start at least at Part I if not Part Zero.
As I mentioned, I was teaching a group of about 13 seniors techniques to help them relax and let go of stress.
Now it was time for the first exercise. Oh! Sorry to pause right out of the gates here – I must mention that, as with some spiritual practices, Zapchen exercises should be done with a qualified and experienced teacher. I have received transmissions for many of the exercises from Janet Evergreen, a senior teacher in the Zapchen tradition, and from Julie Henderson herself (she is the founder and creator of Zapchen Somatics). Personally, I am neither an expert nor a Zapchen teacher, but I believe Zapchen Somatics to be simple techniques to free ourselves of our habitual patterns of doom and gloom, in a fun, comfortable, playful, easy way.
With that said, it may seem that some of these exercises are “too easy” to work. But when you are with a qualified teacher, similar to other spiritual traditions, the teacher can pass on a transmission of the somato-spiritual state of ease, kindness and potency in their body. If we practice self-care on a regular basis (most humans do or at least want to), then the body can quickly “remember” how to get back to a state of deep, playful relaxation, if it has gone there before. But that is the key – we can only “know” that we have gone down an appropriate path if we are led by an appropriate teacher. If we happen to stumble upon a healthy path, we may forever be full of doubt and uncertainty until we gain confirmation from someone who has been down that path with confidence and clarity.
Having mentioned that you need to receive these teachings from a qualified teacher, I must caution you to not judge these exercises if you try them after reading this, without the presence of a qualified teacher, and they “don’t work.” I know for a fact they work, because in leading this group of seniors, we all dropped into a deeper state of fun openness and I personally moved toward greater inner stillness (internal equanimity), embodied potency and playful awareness. Many of their psychological walls came tumbling down, despite the fact that this was my first time meeting any of them, and the class did not even go for 90 minutes.
With all that said, the first exercise is yawning. There are many incredible health benefits to yawning, but I held off on mentioning these until after we had all yawned five or more times. It took a while to get to five though. Just about everyone was either ashamed to force themselves to yawn, or they could not do it without having it be spontaneous and organic. Well, it seemed I needed to get them started, so I yawned in a rather vocal manner. I have been told that when I yawn like that, that it sounds almost like I am doing warm-ups for voice class. Therefore, even these seniors could not help but hear the yawn.
I should probably mention too, that there is an energetic field around us. One of the participants mentioned that we have auras (I did not want to go here on such an early class) and once it was mentioned by someone else, I ran with that. Hey, if they mention it, obviously there is a reason it is coming up. If I mention it too early though, I could lose people’s attention and possibly their trust! Anyway, I said that I believed that yawning not only has physical effects on us, but as we yawn, we relax parts of our bodies and that this effects the energetic field around us. And I said that by changing (“relaxing”) the energetic field, that is how we “cause” others around us to start yawning. You could argue it is the sight of the yawns doing it, but I would add it is also a change in the field which your body “senses.”
[As an aside, it would be a fascinating experiment to see if you blindfold people and prevent them from hearing anything, and then you have others around them start to yawn, do they do start themselves? I’m hoping this has already been tried, but if so, I’ve not heard of it yet.]
It was mentioned that several people thought yawning meant you were bored or tired. I knew that might come up, so I talked a little about how I believe that particular cultural mores to be horribly mistaken. When someone who I know yawns around me, I consider it a compliment (they are practicing self-care) or at least I certainly don’t think they are being rude! Yawning opens the throat, palate and TMJ; it produces saliva (helping digestion); yawning lubricates the eyes and has been shown to help with maintaining a healthy balance of serotonin and melatonin, among many other benefits. Therefore we yawned as much as we were able.
Some people covered their mouths as they yawned, as the cultural beliefs tended to be deeply ingrained! But eventually, nearly everyone yawned at least five times. Then we napped. Napping, if you have not figured it out yet, is one of the most important exercises you can possibly do (yes perhaps even more beneficial than yawning). There is evidence that napping, just for five to seven minutes, is very helpful for learning, for better efficiency and brain functioning.
My only regret from this class is that not enough people lay down to nap. And by not laying down, their bodies were still holding a little bit of tension and exerting a little effort to keep them in the seated position. In other words, by not laying down, they were not capable of letting go completely. There were several of us who did lay down, and by doing so, we were not tempted to start whispering. Eventually though, some whispering started among the seated people. The discursive mind can be so distracting – when we are not used to just letting go, we tend to revert back to previous patterns, which in this case were to chat and whisper. I did hear someone start after briefly falling asleep (while seated), and the phrase, “Sweet Jesus!” was muttered several times.
So we did yawning and napping to open the class. Actually, by discussing my ground rules, and then mentioning how it was my intention to rest down just a little bit more, and to practice just a touch more kindness to yourself (and therefore to others), it took 45 minutes to get through the introduction, the yawning and the napping. Therefore, I was not wordy for the next two exercises.
I will continue this stream in the next post. It should be complete within a few days. Thanks for visiting!