Let Your Body Move on Its Own

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.

14 thoughts on “Let Your Body Move on Its Own

  1. I’m definitely interested in this, Virginia! It’s fascinating and of course, I always need a bit (!) of help and direction in healing. Please do keep me on the mailing list. I’m holding out hope that some day (“who knows how, who knows when”) I’ll be a regular with you again; you made my life better. Thank you, and all good wishes…Jane

  2. So happy this is of interest, Jane! And so lovely to hear from you. Of course I’ll leave you on the list. I hope one day too to get back to some hands-on work in an office.
    🙂 Virginia

  3. Ive done this my entire life. I thought it was just a thing people knew to do. Ive saved my ass way to many times this way

    1. You’re right, it’s absolutely a thing people know how to do; we’re born with this instinctual ability. It’s just that some of us get more disconnected from our bodies over time because of various life experiences, like trauma. It’s lovely that you’re so connected to yourself–your baseball story is a perfect example. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. For example when i was on baseball practice in highschool i got hit on the head with a baseball. As it was coming towards it my body noticed it and my head readjusted on its own. If the ball would have hit me anywhere else it would have been bad. From what the trainer said.

  5. Hi there, I was wondering if I can apply this to my own life, I’ve obsessing about how I move and I feel like the way that I act is weird and unnatural. I think I’m perfectionist when it comes to everything that I do and I need to know if I should not let my mind control my body but instead allow my body to do what it wants. I would appreciate it if you could give me clarification.

    1. Hi there! Thank you so much for your question. It sounds like there may be more complexity and background behind this question then I can do justice to in a simple response here. If so, please feel free to reach out to me through the info on my contact page. In general, though, this is probably not an either/or situation but a “both.” Our conscious intentions direct our movements in our day-to-day lives for lots of very important reasons that allow us navigate the world. AND it can often be fruitful to occasionally give the unconscious body-intelligence free reign, allowing the body to move in ways you might not have thought of or that feel nice. You could look at this as an exploration, for example setting aside 30 minutes in a room on your own, and just seeing what kinds of movement emerges when you ask your mind to step out of the way. But let me emphasize: There’s no right way to do this practice! Also, if you find you’re continuing to struggle with your feelings about how you move, it might be helpful to work with a trauma-informed, somatic, movement specialist. The Somatic Experiencing (trauma healing.org) database of practitioners is a good place to look (filter the search for people who are movement specialists). I hope that is helpful. If not, please feel free to reach out directly. 🙏

  6. I did a search to see if anyone else had experienced this. Mine usually starts in the back of the hands as I’m waiting for the first dog pose to happen. Interesting when it moves into less felt areas of the body. I find it also can be initiated when walking but it’s got a slightly different character.

  7. I had an interesting experience when going to the bathroom when I woke in the the middle of the night, as usual last night. I was somewhere between asleep and awake.. I could hear the clock ticking and knew I was awake but very drowsy. I have fibromyalgia and when I was on the toilet my neck also started moving involuntarily, like someone else was gently moving it around whichever way it needed to go. I was aware of what was happening and that it would have looked weird if anyone saw it but I wasn’t scared and knew it was what I needed. I guess it lasted about 5 mins. I had the thought not to tell anyone in my life (yet?), it was a gift for me and I knew what happened and it was about healing. I woke as usual this morning and feel calm about it. Interesting to find your blog here, I do a lot of yin yoga to help my body so will try what you wrote about too. It feels like what I probably need now.

    1. Ah, such wise bodies we have! I love that your neck spontaneously started doing healing movements–and that you intrinsically understood it was okay and needed. What a wonderful entry point into this organic, body-wisdom generated movement. I wish you much fun exploration!

      1. Thank you Virginia! I did luckily understand it was needed but I do really appreciate your validation too, I knew not many people would understand what I was talking about. I’m glad to have found your blog! ❤️

        I also feel like since it happened a few nights ago, my mind now knows what it feels like to have that sense of healing in my body if that makes sense? I am used to my body feeling sore and tense generally, recently but this is a new, positive body memory. I have felt more relaxed since and also more confident that I’m going in the right direction with my approach in general. Ps the SNRI I’m on makes my dreams quite psychedelic (which I generally don’t mind) and I think it’s helping get into a different ‘state’ which may have facilitated this experience possibly? Either way, happy it happened!

      2. Hi, Janet–yes, it makes perfect sense. Once you know what healing feels like in your body, you now not only have a baseline for a felt-sense of wellness (in contrast to discomfort and pain) but it also makes it easier to return there. It becomes so much easier to tune in to “what feels good…what feels like health.” That’s wonderful! And I love that the SNRI is supporting this emerging healing capacity so beautifully.

Leave a Reply