Yoga Matrika now offers two very unique classes that are not traditional yoga or, at least, different from what you might expect from a yoga class. In my discussions with some students in the community recently I have heard comments that reflect some fear of trying these different classes and the fear seems to be based entirely on the names of the classes. These classes both have some dance terms in their names and it seems as though the idea of dance is terrifying for many adults. It seems to me that it might be helpful to think about what yoga is and put these “dance” classes within the context of traditional yoga philosophy.
At first glance, or perhaps even after some deeper consideration, classes with names like “Yoga Dance” and “Yoga Booty Ballet” may not seem like real yoga classes. Yoga is sitting around on the floor chanting Om or doing downward facing dog or back bends or sun salutations—-right? So, what is the relationship between dance and movment that is not asana-based and yoga? I invite you to consider the definition of yoga provided by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras:
yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination,
stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field
yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi
chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field
vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind-field
nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination,understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of
If yoga is the control of the modifications (movement) of the mind away from the constant distraction of the hamster wheel of your mind activity (you know, what happens when you sit down to meditate and you are immediately flooded with memories, your to do list, picking your toes, plans for the future—all at the same time!), then these classes that require focus on creative movement, sensation in the body and intention are most definitely yoga. While we may have come to equate the practice of asana (physical postures) with the defnition of yoga, the truth is that many different things can, by Patanjali’s definition be yoga.
Dance is the loss of inhibition—-it is letting go, in this moment, of concerns about how you look and allowing your body to respond to the rhythm of the music and to the pleasures of the movement itself. Dance is an invitation for breath to move not only in and out of the body, but through every cell of the body as you enliven your limbs and the extensions of your spine. Dance is not some tortured experience of your memory of some fall social gathering in a church basement. That memory is exactly the mind-stuff that holds you back from the liberation that you are likely to experience in a yoga-based movement or dance class. This is not about uncomfortable shoes, clammy hands or a date with two left feet and a bad attitude. This is not about you feeling uncoordinated—-this is about allowing yourself to explore pleasure through movement.
All of the fears that you have about trying a new type of class or about dancing are sourced in the movements of the mind—–and these mental gymnastics are what keep you from living fully. If you have these mental movements in response to the idea of taking a movement-based yoga class, I encourage you to see them as just that—-mental movements. Do not allow them to control your decision—–try the Yoga Dance class you are so curious about! Try the Yoga Booty Ballet class! What is the worst thing that can happen? What is likely to happen is that you will be nervous and for the first few minutes of class, you may question how you got yourself into this ridiculous situation. While you learn the movements and try to find your ground in the first few minutes of class, you may feel clumsy or like you don’t know what you are doing. Then, you will begin to focus on what is happening in the moment as you become immersed in the activity. Slowly, slowly you will release your commitment to the movements of the mind and engage with the movement of your body, the sounds of the music, the feeling of breath and—–all of a sudden, you are doing it and it is yoga. After class, you will feel centered, open and liberated—–not just because of the joyful nature of the class, but because you did not allow the movements of your mind to stop you from giving the class a try. You tried it and you survived and nothing bad happened—–as a matter of fact, you think you’re going to come back next week!
I really hope you give our two movement-based yoga classes a try. They are a wonderful and fun way to improve the health of your body, heart and mind. These classes will also help you expand your definition of yoga as you strengthen and tone the body. When can you take these wonderful classes this summer?
Yoga Booty Ballet (YBB) with Aleta Howard
Yoga Dance with Alexis Shaw