Moving through life.
“One of the greatest gifts of yoga,” my teacher’s voice rang out as we grappled with a challenging yoga pose last week, “is more finely-tuned proprioception, which helps you to move more mindfully through life.”
“One of the greatest gifts of today’s class,” I thought to myself at that moment, “is a fabulous opening line for my next blog.” Words floated in the air, dancing a connection between my yoga teacher’s observation and dreams, but there was no opportunity to capture them beyond memorising her uttering and hoping that the words would flow when I sat down to write, as I am now. For in that moment my task, along with the other students in class that morning, was to find my foot which was currently out of sight, and, it seemed, out of reach.
I bet you’re curious about the pose, so let’s begin there. Whether or not you practice yoga, you’re probably familiar with the downward dog: an A-shape, bottom up, hands on the floor in front of you, feet on the floor behind you. So far so good.
Our challenge that day was to lift the left leg up behind us then reach behind with our left hand to catch the unseen foot (a pose known as downward dog dancer). Most of us were blindly flailing, or falling over, or still gripping the mat tightly in downward dog comfort zone. Some of us made hand-to-foot contact, briefly or for long enough to feel balletic, expansive, and graceful.
The main challenge was not so much the final pose itself but being able to locate that out-of-sight foot with that out-of-sight hand.
Proprioception (also known as kinaesthesia) is one of our senses, alongside sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and so on.
It helps you to sense the movement and location of your muscles, to know your body position. It’s proprioception that enables you to place your feet on the ground and walk (without having to watch your feet), or to accurately find the tip of your nose with your finger while your eyes are closed.
I bet you just tested that, didn’t you! How did you go? Did you touch your nose dead-centre or did your finger land slightly off target? Just as you can train your hearing to pick up specific sounds or train your sense of touch to become more exquisitely nuanced, you can train your proprioception through practise and through challenges like the one our yoga teacher gifted us that day.
And she is right, of course. The more finely-tuned your ability to know where your various body parts are in space, the better you can co-ordinate your movements, and the more aware you can become of how you move through life. Conscious awareness of proprioception leads to more mindful movement. We can move more mindfully through life.
There are times when we allow proprioception to get on with its job out of reach of our conscious awareness, while we walk around in our headspace caught up in thoughts, disconnected from our body: proprioception handles the way our feet meet the earth, the way our arms swing gently to maintain our balance, the way our body moves through space.
Other examples are letting our foot automatically connect with the car’s brake pedal while we’re focussing on the road ahead, or instantaneously reaching out to catch something precious ‘without thinking’.
One of the greatest gifts of working with your dreams (yes, we got to dreams!)
One of the greatest gifts of working with your dreams (yes, we got to dreams!), is a more finely-tuned awareness of the various aspects of yourself – your beliefs, feelings, perspectives, habits, patterns, shadows, potential – which helps you to move more mindfully through life.
When you understand your dreams, you also identify the unconscious automated behaviours that work positively for you (perhaps your tendency to follow creative urges), and those that limit you (perhaps your unconscious tendency to withdraw from speaking up, suffering in silence).
When you understand your dreams, you identify the multitude of moving parts that make up your mindset, both conscious and unconscious. You begin to understand how this belief connects with that feeling, how another belief drives (moves) a pattern of behaviour, or how an unrealised gift or talent lies dormant, stalling the way you move through life.
When you understand your dreams, you get to know yourself more deeply, and witness how you move through life at every level. This work gifts you the choice to move through life more mindfully, to know where you are on your path at any moment, and to move more expansively and more graciously every day.