NORMAN W. WILSON, PhD
The old saying “what’s old is new again” certainly applies to the area of shamanism. Shamanic healers for thousands of years used sound, stones (crystals), herbs (plants) to help their patients. Evidence also indicates early shaman used hallucinogens to walk (journey) between spiritual realms and or dimensions (parallel universes). To do so, they used drums, rattles, flutes, voice, and dance to go into a hypnotic trance. I know of no ancient records indicating breathing played a role in journeying. However, with that said, it doesn’t mean such records do not exist somewhere.
In the way of a reminder, shaman journeyed to other realms, dimensions, or parallel universes for several reasons. Among these are determining the future, success in the hunt or war, moving the tribe, retrieving a lost soul, and of course, seeking help in dealing with an ill patient.
There is an ancient yogic breathing technique that produces a hypnotic trance. Coming out of India, it is at least five thousand years old. It is Ujjayi and the word itself is Sanskrit and means one who is victorious. It now means “victorious breath.”
Ujjayi breath brings about the spontaneous and natural movement of energy from the root center to the crown. It is a whole-body experience that channels via the spine. For the shaman, Ujjayi provides several benefits prior to going into a hypnotic trance. Among these health benefits is an increase in the amount of oxygen in the blood thus vitalizes brain activity, builds internal body heat, regulates blood pressure, builds energy, and detoxifies both the brain and body.
I feel it is necessary to point out there are issues in deep breathing. This is a warning! If you have cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal detachment, aneurysms, or are pregnant or had recent significant injuries or surgeries DO NOT participate in Ujjayi breathing. If you are not sure regarding any other physical issues consult your medical doctor before attempting any form of deep breathing techniques.
Use a flat surface to lie down on, preferably yoga mat placed on the floor. If you have neck issues place a small bolster under your neck. Make sure your breathing is not impaired. DO NOT do this deep breathing standing up. You may fall and injure yourself. If you are new to Ujjayi, a good suggestion is to do this for a maximum of twenty minutes. As you gain practice, increasing the time is fine. NEVER do this while alone. Always have someone with you who is familiar with this breathing technique. An additional safety device is to have a timer set to go off at the end of 20 minutes. Make sure the timer’s sound is pleasant; not harsh. Have a notebook or journal nearby.
Here are the specific steps:
- Take a deep slow breath, filling your lungs. Hold your breath for the slow count of three. Exhale fully. Begin breathing in immediately. The plan here is to create a constant pattern of in and out.
- Increase your breathing to a bit faster; a tad faster than normal. Do not go ninety miles per hour. Too fast breathing will cause unnatural tension.
- As you exhale through your mouth, make sure it is fully open; place your tongue behind your upper teeth. As you exhale you should hear a mild sound something like an ocean wave. At about ten minutes into the exercise, you should begin to feel sense of euphoria or (if you are a practiced breather) an altered state of consciousness.
- Your gentle alarm should sound at the end of the 20-minute session. Prearrange to have your partner place his or her hand gently on your shoulder. This is a second reminder that you should bring your breathing back to normal.
- Before slowly getting up, reflect on what you experienced, what message you received, what you learned.
- Jot down in your journal a few of your reactions and observations.
January 21, 2019