Last weekend I attended one day of the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC before I headed back home to Arkansas. I did a all day intensive course with the owners of Jivamukti Yoga, Sharon Gannon and David Life. I learned a lot and did my first handstands with a little bit of assistance. I am pretty ecstatic about that!
**Side note back to this past Monday night at my last World Yoga Center Yoga and Meditation class with Rudrani. I did Pincha Mayurasana “feathered peacock” (forearm balance) for the first time by myself! Twice! I was elated! I kept having to clear my mind during meditation of the constant stream of “I did it! I did it!” I have never been gymnastically inclined–even in childhood. The extend of my daring tumbling has been flips, back rolls, and cartwheels. Over the last two months while studying in NYC, I have been thrown into all kinds of seemingly scary asanas. I’ve now worked on head stands, Pincha Mayurasana, hand stands, crow, tripod headstand and peacock. Way outside my comfort zone at first, now it seems I’m ready to embrace the discomfort, take a deep breath, and go.
And that is what Sharon spoke about as she was sharing “The Magic 10” set of asanas that she does everyday. We all moved to the walls to practice handstand. We inhaled as we kicked up one leg and then the other to the wall. You must use a strong breath. People get injured in yoga when they hold their breath. She also said to let go of all those initial feelings of fear and negativity that may arise when you hear headstand–or anything else you may be afraid of. Never let the negative thoughts implant. Don’t give them any time. This is the way to be able to approach any pose and we already know this is the way to end all our suffering as humans. So it was a really nice class with some new and challenging variations, good adjustments, lots of Loka Somastha Sukhino Bhavantu and meditation.
That evening I participated in my first Trance Dance and I have to say it was a pretty magical experience. There were a couple hundred of us filling up three large connected conference rooms at the Hilton. (I wasn’t born with the estimation gene, so I can’t be exact on numbers–but there were a lot of us!) We began on our mats with a yoga class taught by Elena Brower and Dana Flynn. There was a DJ and live drummers and there was a lot of energy in the room. I was so enjoying it, but it was kind of funny because I was so tired from my whole previous week and packing, and day of yoga, I just kept yawning. We started with a great breathing exercise that was energetic and uniting as you felt and heard all the hundreds of people around you breathing in and out as one. We flowed though poses and began to mix in some dance moves. So much energy and life there–excited, vital, pure, and fun. At one point we were all sitting, hands out at our shoulders, palm to palm with our neighbor yogis, gently swaying to the music, when the Alicia Keys song, New York, came on and everyone there broke out into singing. They would stop the music so you hear everyone’s voices. New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you. Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York. So this yogic energy met a passion for this amazing city and it truly was magical.
Then Shiva Rhea began to lead the trance dance. We let go of speaking and language from then on out and ritualistically rolled up our mats and began moving around the room to the music. The lights dimmed and the DJ faded out to leave only the live drummers. We began by dancing through the crowd touching as many palms as possible and then Shiva would guide us though different songs and rhythms. ‘Reach the hands to the sky and let the energy be high and come out your finger tips! Feel the rhythm in your feet, sinking low, connecting to the earth.” Some songs had specific dance steps we learned. She passed out little egg maracas that we shook to the beat. Some songs we did sitting or on our hands and knees. After about an hour it was time for free dance!
This was a very cool experience and I will definitely do it again. I went through a lot during the course of the evening. I do feel self conscious free dancing with people and this was different and unknown territory. I find it much easier to dance when someone lays out the choreography for me in shows. Or when I’ve had a few drinks before dancing at a club. But the truth is that I love to dance! I dance alone in my apartment all the time and I want to dance a million times a day to all the different music I hear but, of course, I don’t. This was better than any of those situations. All the vibrant, pure, beautiful energy of all these other humans (who are strangers to you, yet this experience takes away all judgments and reminds how we are all exactly the same) is being cultivated. There is no talking and that is a great relief. There is only one dance partner and it is yourself. Unlike a club, no one is drunk and dancing up on you. No one is trying to hook up with anyone else. No one is judging your outfit or dance moves. And you are barefoot in the most comfortable yoga clothes, instead of sweating in some dress and dying in your high heels. With all these things removed from the equation, we are all suddenly able to remember how it good it feels to dance. How wonderful it is move to the rhythm of drums and be surrounded by music and to let it flow through you. It became a moving meditation.
Shiva said everyone can dance. Every baby was born with the ability to dance! Ah, once again we see how our society influences/stifles us. (At least me, being a white southern girl. If I were born in Puerto Rico, it would be a different story). I can see why “the church” may be afraid of what all this wild movement and tribal beats might lead to, but it’s honestly quite sad that they influenced the cultures to stay still. While I was there all kinds of Bible quotes came to my mind. “Let them praise his name in the dance,” Psalm 149.3, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might,” 2 Samuel 6:14, “You turned my wailing into dancing,” Psalm 30:11, and my favorite, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. It was time to dance! Sometime the energy felt childlike–uninhibited, carefree, joyous but other times there was another layer. There is definitely a sexuality to dance but that doesn’t mean that dancing is about having sex. There was one song when we were all on our hands and knees still moving to the beat of the drums and I felt very much like a strong, powerful woman and sexual being. No matter how fearful you may be of saying that out loud, we are all sexual beings. (We have to be to reproduce and keep the human race in existence.) And there was not one thing about it that was sinful, dirty, unclean or wrong! It was beautiful and pure and I was full of God given energy! I danced until I couldn’t hold myself up any longer and it was time to head home and finish packing my bags to head back to Arkansas.
Have you danced today? If not, I would highly recommend it.