Someone just asked me, “what’s the thing about breathing with your mouth open during 5Rhythms practice?” This was interesting timing because after donkey’s years of being convinced that this is the most advantageous way to go, I’ve just seen things from a different perspective. I’ll share what wisdom I’ve gathered, both old and new.
Softening the jaw and breathing through the mouth helps your whole body/heart/mind system to relax, and helps you to connect with your physicality and sensuality. It also allows you to be more easily relational with what’s around you: allow your jaw (and lips and even your tongue) to soften a little and feel how you open and engage more fully with what’s around you.
In all the years I studied with Gabrielle, only once did she ever ask us to breathe through the nose alone, and that was for a particular practice on an advanced workshop (and even then she was clear about keeping the jaw relaxed and mouth a little open). I’m not going out on a limb here. It’s standard 5Rhythms basics. Relax your jaw. Let the breath in and out through your mouth as well as your nose.
So many of us have been programmed to shut up. Look around, and everywhere you can see tight jaws and pursed lips holding back mountains of fear, fury, and grief. Even joy! We’re afraid to feel anything, afraid to live and love. We’re afraid to receive deeply, and afraid to let stuff show freely.
Most of us skirt away from what we fear rather than face it, feel it, and expand through it. A highly effective way to avoid experiencing all that scary relational, sensual, emotional stuff, is to breathe more shallowly and tense your jaw (along with the lips, tongue, neck and shoulders). Pay attention to your patterns; chances are that if you haven’t practised something else on purpose, that’s the way you go. I’ve been practising it for decades, and I’m pretty good when I’m actually on the dance floor, but it’s still another matter when those fears come up during day to day life. Everything tenses up, and one of the key places the tension shows is in my jaw and mouth.
Softening the jaw and breathing through the mouth will help all that relational stuff to open up. Your whole system relaxes along with the jaw, to be more fluidly connected with whatever is around you. You’re more vulnerable that way —which may be a big part of what you’re fearing and resisting— but that vulnerability is the ground for your deepest power and beauty if you can only let yourself expand into it.
This is what I’ve taught and practised, ten thousand times. It’s accurate in many instances, and good baseline technique for some of the fundamental purposes of conscious movement practice such as embodied presence, relational openness to others, and surrendering to the One that moves us all.
The other day during my practice, I noticed that my mouth wanted to shut. Consistently. So I paid attention and investigated the experience for a while.
For the last few years, I’ve been circling closer and closer to trauma points from my very early childhood. It’s got to the point where I realise that in all these years of practising the rhythms, for the most part, it’s been too fast, too loud, and too big for that part of me. I’ve literally been overriding my wounding. (This is a big deal to realise, after 30 years! It is throwing up some big questions about our practice per se, and how I teach. It’s right in keeping with the quantum leap in my understanding of the role of Stillness, as any of you who have danced with me recently will know.)
This part of me is so incredibly raw, that if I really stay with it, my movements are very very gentle, slow and nuanced. I’ve been exploring that over the last couple of years, but just the other day, for the first time, I found that this part of me needed my mouth gently closed. It helped me to turn within to withdraw into myself for a while, which felt healthy.
So that call to write about this from someone coming just days later was a strong enough sync for me to say yes. Hope this is all useful.
For the most part, when I look around the room in a workshop, often the mouth-shut dancers are either deeply trained in yoga (a practice that although has overlaps with the rhythms, also has some quite fundamental differences), or are rather unconsciously running ‘shut down’ programming: sensually, emotionally, and relationally.
If you can connect with a place within you that truly needs to turn within, and closing your mouth helps with that, then I’m right with you. But that may be advanced practice for you, and a closer-to-now step is more along the lines of: open up, breathe deeply and consciously, and Let Go.
Over to you now. Experiment and explore what works. Go down into the roots of your felt senses and find your best way forward. It’s all good.