Updated: Jun 15, 2022
Rhythm is with us from Day One.
Rhythm sets a tempo. It creates a template.
Our heart in and of itself composes its own rhythm. As members of communities and cultures, we find rhythm in dance and ritual, and through that connection and meaning.
Rhythmic movement is regulating. It is something we use very early on in babies lives; we rock and sway to help them self-soothe. Research even shows that for adults, rocking in rocking chairs or swinging on swings is similarly calming. It is something we can harness as a support when things feel clunky, tense, and stressful.
Early on in my yoga practice I realized that tension patterns during practice in the neck and jaw were often compensating for a lack of stability in other areas of the body, usually the core. I found that with consciousness and practice, though, it was possible to re-channel tension into usable strength. Of course, this was sometimes much easier said than done.
I found support In a course I took with Jane Clapp years ago, called Mindful Strength Training. During the course we experimented with slow, methodical movement and soft holds so that we could stay present with our experience. When we noticed tension arise, in particular that compensatory tension, Jane encouraged us to use rocking and swaying to regulate our bodies in a non-forceful way.
Your 6th and 7th Senses
How does this help? Well, contrary to what you may have been taught, we actually have more than five senses. We also process sensory data through our vestibular and proprioceptive systems.
Proprioception is how we sense our body position and movement in space. It is how we sense, on the inside, where our body parts are. Our proprioceptive system gets information from our skin, muscles, and joints.
Our vestibular system processes information about motion and balance. It helps us with spatial orientation and visual tracking. It is located deep inside our perfect little ears.
If we think of our physical (or emotional) tension as the beautiful glitter in snow globe, swirling around each time the tension arises, it's our vestibular and proprioceptive systems that gently create an environment where the glitter can settle.
We often need that in-between moment to recalibrate. To let our bodies sort out the activation and come into a more organic or intentional posture. In fact, I tell my clients all the time to manage their expectations when responding to their somatic-emotional needs by noticing any change in their experience.
Sure, we usually want to move quickly from a 10 to a 0 on the stress scale, but when we can notice the transition from a 10 to an 8 or a 9, that's a good starting point. That can be enough for our bodies to feel more hopeful about the direction we're headed in so that we can regroup and decide what's next.
Suggestions for Helping Your Snow Globe Settle
In my own body I've found moments of gentle recalibration can look like:
Tuning into the natural sway of my body
Or going outside to sway with the wind
Intentionally circling with my torso (you can even do this on hands and knees like a circular cat-cow)
Methodical steps in a hallway
Quick dance parties (or just a head bop) to my favorite song
Tapping my toes on the ground under your desk
Tapping my shoulders (check out the butterfly hug)
Or, when I need a different kind of sensory input:
Chanting a phrase repeatedly (whether a religious/spiritual chant, or your own affirmation)
Listening to the same song over and over again until I feel satisfied (Ok, this is more repetition, but you get the picture)
So, the invitation to you is to experiment and play with rhythm in your life! Try one of the suggestions above, or create your own practice. I'd love to hear from you - Feel free to let me know in the comments how it works out.
Photo by Anastasia Kolchina