There are a gazillion benefits of practicing yoga, ranging from the physical to the spiritual and many things in between. There are lots of activities you can do to help you stretch and strengthen your muscles, so what’s so magical about yoga? For me, it’s the combination of movement and mindfulness that allows me to tap into my intuition, that the body’s amazing, built-in wisdom that sets yoga apart from other mindfulness or movement based practices I’ve tried in my life.
Intuitive movement is the practice of connecting with your body, paying attention to its internal signals, and using those to determine what type of movement, for how long and with what intensity you like to move. Moving intuitively also incorporates mindfulness, by being present in anything you choose to do.
If you don’t know where to start, here are three simple things you could try to focus on to learn how to move more intuitively in your yoga practice, also in your everyday life.
Do what you enjoy.
This is number 1 for me. Pay attention to what movement you enjoy and don’t worry about the rest. Many times I see people doing exercises they don’t really enjoy because they think intensely burning calories or pushing their muscles to the point of pain during exercise will help them reach their goals.
Maybe think about movement in a wider, holistic way. If you move super hard for one hour in a crazy workout-style yoga class and then sit around at a desk and lay in bed when you get home, your cortisol is spiking up then shooting back down. Try to keep it steady instead. What about walking on your lunch break, stretching when you wake up in the morning, and going on a light session on the mat in the evening? Of course try different combinations to figure out what works better for you.
Connect with your body.
Pay attention to your body’s cravings for movement. Note what it wants and move accordingly.
Let go of the idea that your practice should look in a certain way, and instead move to feel good. Once I started to really begin to move in a way that made me feel amazing, it became a lot less looking in the mirror and a lot more legs up in the air working to balance on my hands.
Moving intuitively for me can also mean moving to have fun on my yoga mat. One day it could be an elaborate acro yoga session, another day maybe a super slow practice to calm and soothe body and mind. It could be all sorts of stuff, and the fun thing is that every day is different.
Let your breath (really) guide you.
I looove a good Dharma vinyasa flow yoga class. Ironically, though, sometimes the breathing cues teachers give during sequences like Sun Salutations (which are meant to help you align your movements to your breath) can actually be a hindrance (yes myself included, absolutely).
Students want to follow their teacher. That’s mainly why you’re there, right? So rather than using your breath to set the pace for the movement, you could try to make your breath match your movements. This is why I’m such an advocate for setting a simple flow to start with and then give students time to tune into their breath and set their own pace.
One last note – if you’re struggling with too much exercise, being intuitive for you may mean taking a break and let your body heal from pushing it too hard. It may help to know that this won’t last forever and sometimes pressing pause will give you space to nurture a healthier relationship with movement.