Did you know your body can move without you consciously willing it? Consciously intended movement often starts with a thought. I want more coffee. Then we pick up our mug, walk to the kitchen, and pour ourselves more coffee. This complex series of motions feels automatic and runs along well-oiled grooves in our gray matter, but we did consciously decide to move.
Yet there’s another intelligence inside us. A subterranean, subconscious, body-based intelligence. And it can decide to move you, too.
Don’t believe me? Ever whip your arm up to block something flying at your head before you had time to think? Or move into a stretch you hadn’t planned to do during yoga? That’s the lizard brain, the spinal cord, and the underlying intelligence moving you. And it can do a lot more if you let it.
Lately, I’ve been playing with letting my body move on its own. But first, I’ve set some parameters. (Picture this as me talking to myself.) I’ve asked:
- For movements I can do on a yoga mat in a comfortable range
- To not hold positions uncomfortably long
- To leave trauma work—frozen, tight, scary places—for another time
With that set, I put down my yoga mat, close my eyes, and invite my body to move. Then I wait. I’m feeling my body sensations, noticing when an inner impulse builds and then…scwhoop…my arm lifts, my hips turn, or something else moves.
I’ve had the most eye-opening “yoga” sessions this way. Who knew how badly the front of my neck wanted to stretch? Or that I needed to spend 30 minutes a day mobilizing my spine. One whole session was dedicated to opening my shoulders. Another to stretching my inner thighs. I could go on and on.
Of course, I’ve been doing this a long time, so my body starts moving easily. If this is all new to you, here are two simple ways to start:
- Weight shifts: I learned by standing and noticing my weight shifts. Your body automatically does these to keep you upright. If you pay attention, and invite more movement, the motions may get bigger and more complex.
- Start with your head: Lie face up on a mat and invite your head to slowly move. You might begin by just noticing which way it’s inclined to roll.
See if you can surrender and let your body take control. For some, this is going to be a big challenge. I’ll talk more about that next time in part 2 of this topic. For now, just ask your body how it would like to move.