I spend a lot of time in my head thinking, analyzing, overthinking, planning, dreaming, and creating. One of the reasons I was initially drawn to yoga is the freedom of getting out of my head and connecting with my breath and my body. I liked it so much that I became a yoga teacher, opened my own yoga studio, and started my own yoga business.
Instead of living in a stretchy bliss of ease and acceptance, I began to overthink and overanalyze all things yoga. I can tell after a class I taught if I was too in my head—the class didn’t feel right and I’m left dissatisfied.
When I take yoga classes or practice at home, I’m still in my head. “What a great cue,” I think, or “wow, I never thought of that sequence.” As much as I try to simply receive, I’m stuck in the mode of creating, learning, and trying to improve and evolve as a teacher. Have I lost yoga to my monkey mind?
I was recently invited to preview a Qi Gong Equine Therapy model a friend of mine created. She wanted to test things out before working with caregivers of hospice patients. Having no exposure to Qi Gong, I had no idea what to expect.
I grew up riding and raising horses, so I figured I had that part down. I was with a wonderful group of women and we were warned that emotions could arise. I trusted we would hold space for each other.
After a brief introduction, we did a few basic Qi Gong exercises. I was immediately blown away by how grounded, peaceful, open, centered, and calm I felt. I didn’t notice until later that I was actually out of my head for a bit. The purpose of these exercises was to get into our hearts to connect with the horses.
We went into the arena to find our equine partner. Some horses might choose us, we were told, or we might choose the horses. Entering the arena, I had butterflies. I had memories of walking into a middle school dance. The horse I was drawn to passed me by. Feeling like we were playing musical chairs, I quickly chose a handsome chestnut gelding named Doc. Doc looked completely disinterested in me.
I wondered if I made a bad choice. We all circled up. The horses came over and circled up with their human partners, too—except Doc. He turned away from us and took a nap.
My brief relationship with Doc felt a bit like my current relationship with my 14 year old son. Before transitioning to the next activity, I asked if I should pick another horse. I wasn’t sure Doc and I were a good fit.
I was assured that I absolutely had the right horse. I was skeptical but started the work of learning to connect by leading with my heart and getting out of my head. Without using verbal commands or touching the horses, we were to use our eyes, our heart energy, and some movement to invite the horse to walk with us. This is based in Qi Gong as the mind goes where the eyes go and energy goes where the mind goes.
It’s hard for me to put into words what this experience was like. Before I began, I was instructed to close my eyes, come into my breath, get out of my mind, and assess my energy level on a scale of 1-10. We were reminded that all relationships look different and we were encouraged to just be.
My energy level was a 7-8. I was nervous that Doc and I would fail. And if I failed to connect with Doc, then naturally I’d fail to connect with my son. Realizing how in my head I was, I started questioning my ability to teach yoga, berating myself until the big question finally reared its ugly head: am I enough?
I found my way out of my head, focusing my gaze and opening my heart. As Doc and I connected, I felt something I can only describe as a pleasant electric shock in my heart. My heart felt like it was bursting open. I could feel myself beaming and fighting back tears. The connection was immediately lost when my monkey mind kicked in, but we could re-establish connection when I came back to my center, my body, and my breath.
It was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had with a horse and I struggle to accurately describe it. For days afterwards I experienced euphoria while also feeling like I could burst into tears.
What did I learn? That I had more connection with a simple Qi Gong exercise than I’ve had recently with my yoga practice. That I’m in my head. That relationships that don’t look like you think they should can still evoke connection. I learned what pure, innocent connection feels like. And most importantly for me right now, I’ve become even more inspired to get out of my head and teach from my heart.
In light and love,