Autopilot for Dummies

Where do you live in your body?

It was during a yoga class several years ago that my teacher asked this question. When you are in the middle of Downward Facing Dog with sweat running down your face and sliding all over your mat, the answer seems like a no-brainer.

My arms. Duh.

Except once I relaxed in Child’s pose several breaths later with my arms by my sides I realized that’s not true. It was only true for that moment but now my arms felt fine, my back felt great and my legs were relaxed.

My head, however, was hot. All I could think about was the next pose we were going to do and how I couldn’t wait to go upside down. I love to invert and handstands and headstands are by far my favorite. The entire class sequence was leading up to these poses and I couldn’t wait to execute them.

So back to the teacher’s question. Where do I live in my body? It hit me in that moment that instead of feeling every movement and allowing myself to be fully present in each pose, I had been anticipating the next pose in my head.

Handstand is not the goal of Yoga.

My head and thoughts were projecting so far ahead into the future that I forgot to simply breathe, to just BE.

So long story short – I live in my head. Lots of us do. If you take about 20 seconds or so and take a full deep belly breath you’ll see what I mean. You might notice that your fully deep belly breath doesn’t extend into every single inch of your body. Most of us only breathe into the upper half of our lungs throughout the day while we are commuting to work or sitting at our desks.

Many of us can live with chronic pain for months on end tucking it away into that corner of our minds along with all the unread mail and to-do lists that never seem to get done. We’ll deal with it some other time, right? Some of us can do this for years until your body gives you a serious wake up call.

This brings me back to handstand. Why do I love it so much? Because I can’t think. It’s the one pose where it is almost impossible to think because if you do you will probably fall on your head. Every inch of my body is hyper focused on staying aligned and stacked in handstand so that I am balanced.

I am forced to get out of my head and it’s such a relief. Looking back it makes sense that I am naturally attracted to a pose that helps me get out of my head and into my body.

I circle back to this question each time I am faced with a challenge, whether it’s mental or physical. Where am I holding? Where is there tension? Where am I blocked?

Your body will tell you.  Your body has so much wisdom and is always working towards healing itself. Give your body the credit it deserves by sitting with yourself and exploring where you live in your body.

You might find a tethered knot in your shoulder, a kink in your neck or a knot in your belly. Sit with it. Acknowledge it. And then give it permission to let go. It may not happen spontaneously but by giving it a little oxygen and TLC you are mindfully working towards letting go.

Letting go can be painful but your body will thank you for it.