Woah, it looks like springtime is the start of cool workshop season! Aside from my regular weekly hot vinyasa and kundalini classes, my mind-body-spirit calendar now includes:

– Kundalini workshop (March 12).
– 5Rhythms (2nd Sunday) class (March 13).
– 5Rhythms (4th Friday) class (March 25).
– Biodanza workshop (March 26).
– 5Rhythms “Heartbeat” workshop (April 1 & 2)
– African drumming Workshop (April 9).

This Biodanza workshop really has me intrigued. According to the website, “Biodanza is a movement based system that integrates music, dance and authentic relationships with self, others, and the world to support health, joy and a sense of being fully alive.” Sounds right up my alley!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in another kind of yoga/dance class, appropriately titled YogaDance. I was so skeptical going into it, because (a) it was being held at my gym (cardio! sweat! burn!), and (b) the woman who was leading the class just did not strike me as a “YogaDance” person. I’ve taken other forms of YogaDance before, and she and it just do not go together.

I was upset with myself for entering the class with so much resistance. My brain wouldn’t shut up: You’re going to hate this. It isn’t 5Rhythms. You won’t be allowed to move the way you want. No one understands the way you want to move. I guess it’s good that at least I was aware of the resistance, although it was completely unwarranted and juvenile.

After a general warm-up, the class consisted of three different routines, all structured around yoga postures. For example, we’d stand in Warrior I and move our torso and arms down and up, down and up, down and up; a few dancey moves to transition; and then flow sideways into Warrior II three times with choreographed arms. Everything was done on a beat, and although we were instructed to “move our arms out to the side,” for example, we could execute that movement however we wanted, infusing our own personality into the moves.

After letting the monkey mind chatter away for a few minutes (“How I shun structure!” “I can’t believe we’re being told how to move!” “How ridiculous is it do be doing yoga on a count!”), I began to realize that I really liked what we were doing; in fact, I had even previously considered developing a program like it myself after I graduated from YTT and yearned to teach some kind of yoga/dance blend. As a dancer, the addition of music while doing yoga makes the practice so much more fluid and deep. And turning static yoga postures into a continuous flow is an integral part of Kripalu yoga, and something I do myself at home! I’ll stand in Warrior I with arms overhead and then straighten the front leg while bringing the arms to anjali mudra at my heart, switching back and forth between these two postures in my own personal dance. On days when I’m feeling frisky, I’ll dance from Warrior II to Half-Moon Pose, my arms tracing a semi-circle overhead.

I was sweating after class, but in many ways the hour-long class was more gentle than other yoga classes, and was probably more forgiving for yoga newbies, I think. Because we were constantly moving in and out of the yoga poses, there was no imperative that our “right foot be here” or our “arms to be straight like this,” and the freedom to express the postures in our own way lifted any mental blocks we had about “being right.” I especially appreciated this liberation, because I can’t do several postures the “right” (read: yoga model) way due to my hip. Also, sometimes holding a posture for too long will aggravate my hip, whereas moving in and out of a posture isn’t so bad.

One thing that was a bit weird at first was the mirror factor. The 5Rhythms classes I do discourage you from looking in the mirror; in fact, the one studio doesn’t even have mirrors. Despite being dependent on my reflection from Pre-K dance classes in 1983 up until just a few years agos, doing 5Rhythms on a regular basis has really gotten me comfortable with feeling my movement rather than seeing (and judging) it. So it was a little jarring to be taking a yoga-based movement class and be required to face the mirror the whole time. Even when the instructor encouraged us to “do our own thing,” it was sometimes too easy to just look in the mirror and mimic whatever the teacher was doing, or to look in the mirror and be displeased with “your own thing” looked like. However, after the initial fear, I found a way to look beyond the reflection in front of me, instead casting my eyes downward, finding a drishti, or looking in the mirror in a kind of “blurry” way, not really focused on anything. The times when I did catch my reflection, I felt a kind of peace and contentment that, in the past, mirrors generally never provided. I wasn’t judging or correcting or praising. I just noticed. And kept on moving.
What really set me straight was the fact that I was dancing behind a young woman who had some kind of physical and/or developmental disability (possibly cerebral palsy?) that caused her moves to be spastic and her limbs akimbo. She was there with her mother, and every few minutes after doing the routine, she’d turn to her mom, beaming, saying “I did it! I think I got it!” and go back at it. She stood in the front row (which for most people is terrifying), her arms crooked when ours were straight, her legs shaking when ours were firm, her lips in a smile when ours were pursed in concentration. Take note, Iyengar: Now that’s what I call a true Warrior pose.