Are you a head with feet?
Many of us, especially in the West, seem to be. It’s as though we’ve prioritized intellectual thought so much that is where much of our energy is. This isn’t good or bad; it just may not be or feel balanced for everyone.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class with me you know I like to repeatedly offer a couple of things. First, to find your feet; your foundation and “build from the ground up”.
Grounding has been such a big part of my personal journey and I have had to actually find my feet. In fact, I didn’t even really understand that I had a physical body at all until I was in my mid-30s. For some that may sound crazy – because of course I’ve always had a body. True. It’s not like I developed that physicality so many decades after birth. I’m blessed with a functioning, strong, beautiful body.
What I mean is that I didn’t know how to energetically stay in my body. I was so used to finding ways out. To traveling out of situations or emotions. This self-imposed training goes way back to at least childhood, perhaps other lifetimes. My preservation plan was always to abandon ship. To go up and out. I got so good at that I had to learn how to come back. Then, how to stay. For me, yoga is a big part of what helped me learn how to make space and invite those parts of me back – to actually be embodied.
So often I see people in classes skipping this important step. I see them avoiding or not in their legs, and I want to help even a teeny bit, to get others into their bodies too. I see it because it’s familiar to me… I’ve done it too!
Years ago, I kept realizing I needed to ground. After trying to avoid it, I finally listened and spent an entire year focusing on just the first chakra every single day. The root. That foundation upon which everything else stands (until you go upside down, but that’s another story). I never wanted to bend deeply in a warrior posture because that meant using my legs. I didn’t like that one bit. It also meant stirring up uncomfortable sensation and all the unconscious “stuff” that I had locked away in the backs of my hamstrings and calves. All that unprocessed junk that I stuffed into my body (maybe to falsely ground) whenever I fled energetically wouldn’t let me back in. There wasn’t space for me (not that I was trying to come back… I was quite used to floating outside of myself… a giant head with no body).
So, I had to start looking at all that “stuff” stuck in there. Particularly in my legs. Start heating it up. Start sifting. Start being with it – those sensations I never liked. So I could start releasing. So that there was space for me to return.
After that first year of focus, I was more able to be connect to this plane of existence. It’s a constant practice for me and a constant area of growth, but I am now more in my body. Years later (when I was probably complaining about constantly having to ground), a teacher said to me, “the more grounded you are, the more expansive you can be.” I had never thought of it that way and liked that concept.
The more rooted I am within myself the more I can then explore other aspects of myself and my energy. The more I cultivated this, the more supported I started to feel both in and outside of my body, the stronger my sense of belonging became. The stronger this all becomes, I have found my way back into myself. I don’t leave as much and because I’m more present – physically – and I’m able to stay with the sensations or emotions that arise much more. The other benefit of this is that I am also then ready to expand from that sturdy foundation up through the heart, throat, third eye and crown.
I know the path – the way up and out. What I had to learn was the way back into myself. The way to bring that intuition and guidance from “out there” back in. To apply it.
The other aspect of class I almost always offer is time of free movement. Following your heart, your breath, your body. Some kind of movement or stillness that calls to you or that you call for. This doesn’t always go over well with some students, but often it does – and for me to witness an entire room of students moving completely differently – well – it looks like magic. It is magic.
It’s a space to move beyond any should’s or have to’s. To just be. To just move.
Sometimes it can feel scary. It means finding a moment or two of connection when many of us aren’t sure what that’s meant to look like. Some people get emotional. Some are confused and unsure of what to do. Some are angry with me for not leading the class. Some people are totally blissed out. There’s a wide range of responses that this can stir up. It means not having to listen to a teacher or another person but listening to your own authority.
After all these years, I’m now realizing it’s a big ask because these moments of freedom in movement go against the grain of so much we are taught.
These movements on the mat set another foundation in freedom: a place to connect to your intuition.
For many of us this too, is disconnected. Overwritten by conditioning or fear. This intuitive piece is what I’m starting to understand underlies even more of my yoga path. It’s in more of my teaching than I realized.
I’ve worked and shared so much about reconnecting with emotions. That is part of your intuition. So is finding your feet. Being in your body. Being able to move in a way that feels right or good without anyone telling you what to do or how to look. This helps undo so much; helps reclaim so much.
Over time, with repetition, this all helps to rewire the brain, to refocus the body, and allow energy to flow differently. To learn how to be with myself continues to be the greatest gift from these teachings. To practice using the instincts I cultivate on a yoga mat in the world means I have more power and ability to express myself (or at least recognize when I’m unable to do so) and the easier I am with myself no matter what the outcome is from my attempts. At least I heard that intuition.
So I no longer “fail” when I can’t do something based on what I feel. When I can’t take the action I know I “should”. At least I felt the sensations. I noticed. I can learn from it and try again next time. I’m starting to understand that intuition can take a long time to recover, depending on how in tact it is.
When connected with that intuitive self, I’m starting to see that it means not going along for someone else’s ride of what they want from me or of me unless we both or all agree that it is the right action. This comes from learning how to trust in the sensations because I am in my body. I can feel them, stay with them, AND choose the movements that will serve me. I have the space to make choices based on these intuitive pieces of information that I’m no longer running away from but bringing back into my body. Over and over again.
On a large scale this also means I can be free in how I want to move, even within the existing structures. Or to invite them to shift. To see that intuition in myself and in others. That vital piece of the mystery that needs to be worked like any other muscle.
Practiced. Stayed with. Cared for.