For the past few months, I've been taking tennis lessons and African Drumming lessons and I've discovered that I'm better at both tennis and drumming when I'm feeling rather than thinking. Take tennis, for example. The ball is coming at me and I've got a list of things running through my mind in regards to my footwork, my form, and my swing (I can practically hear the pro's voice in my head coaching me on all of the basics). I'm so caught up in thinking about what I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it that I'm not feeling what I'm doing (not the mention the fact that my whole deer in the headlights routine results in quite a few unforced errors). Same goes for drumming -- you can count the beats or you can feel the rhythm.
Just the other day, my drumming teacher kindly told me that I have a good feel for the rhythm. My technique needs work, yes, but I feel the rhythm and can sense where I need to place a chauffe. It's funny -- I'll be drumming along just fine, totally lost in the rhythm, my hands seemingly moving of their own accord, until...BAM -- my head explodes and I completely lose my feel and the rhythm and my hands seem incapable of tapping out a beat.
This usually happens when I start thinking about hand positioning and whether the dominant or non-dominant hand is supposed to be striking the drum and in what order. Thinking about what I need to be doing only makes it worse. It's only when I sink back into the beat and feel it can I get back into the drumming groove. When I'm hitting the tennis ball well, I can feel it. I don't necessary know the breakdown of what I'm doing (and I certainly don't think about keeping my racket down or lifting the ball or swinging through) -- I'm simply doing it. The swing feels effortless and my body feels comfortable.
Same goes for my life. When I'm in touch with my feelings, I make decisions effortlessly and they tend to work out perfectly. When I overthing things, I'm more likely to make a misstep. That's not to say that I don't think about things -- of course consideration is important. I look at it more as having an awareness rather than being logical about it. So often I've followed a feeling and said no to an action only to discover that saying yes to the action would have prevented me from saying yes to something more appropriate for me. If I had thought it through and created a pro/con list or devised a list of reasons for my decision, I probably wouldn't have said no in the first place, for the decision appeared to make good sense.
When I'm feeling into something -- whether it be my tennis swing or my Djembe drum or my life -- there's a flow. Things feel good, right. It's a marked difference between when I'm going by feeling vs. when I'm thinking about it. It just feels easier, more organic. As I was saying to the tennis pro this morning: when you get into bad habits, you injure your body.
Same goes for yoga. When you fail to feel into your body while performing asana, you get into bad habits that, over time, can cause injury. You disconnect from the truth of your body, sacrificing it for what you perceive to be "proper" or "right." Knowing how a pose is supposed to look or where your body parts are supposed to go in a posture doesn't translate into it feeling good or being organic for your body.
For me, the key to avoiding overthinking is simple awareness. In regards to tennis, I'll do some run throughs of a swing to feel the proper form into my body and then I'll drop those thoughts when I start hitting balls with the tennis pro. I suspect this why my yoga practice is so much sweeter these days -- I understand the postures, the form, the contraindications, etc. and I tuck that knowledge aside and feel into the pose rather than think too much about what I'm doing.
When I first started practicing yoga, I had a drill sergeant in my head calling out instructions about where to place this arm and that leg. I only felt something afterwards -- usually after I had tweaked a muscle or overextended something. Frankly, my practice felt very choppy and rigid. There was no organic flow. I kept thinking that I needed to practice a style of yoga that had flow in the name, but what I really needed to do was stop thinking so darned much. An awareness of the postures and the form, yes. Constant thinking about the postures and the form, no.
Off the mat, off the court and away from the drum and into real life -- the feeling rather than thinking lessons are many.
If you'd like to play around with awareness and feeling, check out this wonderful article on awareness of the pelvis. Try out the suggestions offered and then take the feeling into your yoga practice. Do you notice any differences?
P.S. I'm a little late on the draw on this one, but I just found out about this yesterday. A free telesummit, Awakening As Women: A Yoga and Meditation Sanctuary, Practices for Yoginis that Go Beneath the Surface is happening right now. You can still sign on for some of the calls if you act fast. The lineup of speakers is excellent and the topics both powerful and relevant. I've signed up for a few of the classes myself (unfortunately, I missed the first one). Enjoy!