Do you know where your body is?

That sounds like such a silly question. Of course we all know where our bodies are! Except for the rare out-of-body experiences, we are stuck in our bodies all the time in this life.

And yet, most of us spend so much time in our heads that we often aren’t really as aware of what our bodies are doing as you might think we are. How often are you really conscious of your posture? Are you truly sitting properly in this moment? Are your ears in alignment with your shoulders?

The more I practice yoga, the greater my body awareness has become over time. And yet, I will still sometimes practice a posture in front of a mirror and discover that my body is not doing the posture the way I had thought it was.

I may think I’m performing janu sirsasana (head-to-knee pose) with a flat back until I see in the mirror that I am unknowingly curving my spine forward in the attempt to get closer to my legs. I may think I’m keeping both sides of my torso long and flat in trikonasana (triangle pose) until the mirror—or a photograph—shows me how much much my ribs are curving. These are just two recent examples of things I have discovered that told me that my perception of where my body was and where my body really was didn’t match up.

I see this with my students as I teach sometimes too. I may offer verbal cues about a posture to encourage a student to perform it with greater safety, but it becomes clear that the student thinks they are doing exactly what I am telling them when they are not. Sometimes a gentle touch to assist the student can help when words do not, and sometimes it just takes time for the body understanding to grow. I am still growing in my own body awareness after all these years as I continue to show up on the mat.

This increased body awareness is one of the many gifts of yoga as we come to greater awareness of how we are truly holding and moving our bodies and a greater understanding of how we can improve the ways we hold and move our bodies to maximize our strength and alignment. The next time you are on the mat, see if you can bring a heightened level of awareness to your body. Notice how you are holding your body in each posture. Focus on the ways that you are moving. You may be surprised at what you learn!