Have you ever thought about where you awareness resides during your yoga practice? This week I had an interesting discussion about being "in your head" vs. "in your body" during yoga practice with some of our students who are taking Ellen's BYOT training. I'd like to share my thoughts with you because this is an useful yoga topic that we don't typically get to address much during classes.
Being "In Your Head" Being "in your head" means that you're thinking your way through your yoga practice. Your brain is busy processing... the teacher's instructions, your thoughts about the practice, and your thoughts about whatever else is going on in your life. You might even be distracted by the outfit of the person on the mat in front of you.
It's normal for people who are new to yoga to be in their heads because they are learning how to practice yoga. They hear the teacher's instructions, process them with their brains, and move their bodies into the positions. Beginners are usually more concerned about whether the pose looks right than whether it feels right, and this is also normal and common because in our daily lives we are much more practiced at thinking than observing how our bodies feel.
When you are stressed or you've got a lot of stuff going on in your mind, it's also likely that you'll be "in your head" during your practice. It can be hard to stop or even slow down the momentum of the thoughts in your mind at a moment's notice when you step on your mat.
Another reason you might find yourself "in your head" is the style of the particular class you're taking. If you're in a workshop or class where the teacher is breaking down the alignment or technical aspects of a pose or sequence, then your brain naturally switches on so that you can absorb the new information she is offering.
Being "In Your Body" Being "in your body" means hearing the teacher's words and letting them speak directly to your body. This is the more desirable state for yoga practice. By turning off your brain and even your reactions to outside stimuli, you are able to draw your awareness into your body and feel your way through the practice.
Of course, getting "into your body" takes some practice and experience. When you're familiar and comfortable with several yoga poses, you'll begin to be able to quiet your brain and turn your awareness inward. You'll be able to observe your breathing, the sensations in your body, the thoughts that may pop into your mind, and the effects of your breathing on your body and mind.
After several consistent months or years of yoga practice, one day you'll suddenly realize that you automatically turn off your brain when you step onto your mat. You'll begin to see the wisdom that can only be experienced by turning inward and your practice will be much more deep and meaningful.
In My Experience In recent years I have found that my awareness easily transitions into my body in my yoga practice, and I love it. This skill helps me figure out what is tight or uncomfortable in by body and it helps me monitor the progression of relaxation as I breathe. It helps me customize my yoga practice so that I get the most benefit in the shortest amount of time.
But to be honest, if I'm very busy or stressed, my meditation practice suffers. My mind is not able to focus and, despite my effort, my mind fixates on the thoughts that pop into and out of my brain.
And while I much prefer practice asana with my awareness in my body or meditation with a focused mind, if a practice with thoughts jumping around in my head is the only thing available to me on a given day, I'll take it. Any practice is better than no practice. No matter what, I'll leave the mat feeling better than I did when I stepped onto it. And I always have the opportunity to try again tomorrow.
What about you? In your practice, have you observed the transition between being "in your head" and "in your body"? What does each do for you? Do you have any questions about this you'd like me to answer? I'd love to hear your thoughts and musings in the Comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Lots of love, sweet friend.
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