Is it yoga or is it dance? Maybe it's both.
"What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs." - Rumi
Earlier this year, something odd happened for me during my morning yoga practice. I was playing music during my practice, as I often did, and I found I just couldn’t still in a pose. I wanted to move around. Warrior pose would become still in the legs, but everything above my pelvis wanted to sway around and dance. My arms glided through the air. My fingers curled and mingled with the air. Then, even the legs needed to dance around, and suddenly I was off my mat and traveling around my living room. It felt as if this still, stable yoga practice I had cultivated for the last however many years had suddenly become something different, and I wasn’t sure I was okay with where it was going.
This wasn’t the yoga I knew for such a long time. Actually, a male friend of mine once told me that I looked like a gymnast when I was practicing, and that’s pretty close to how I felt doing it. In fact, I actually was a gymnast when I was a child, so it’s not surprising I would practice yoga like one. I loved the challenge of getting my body into all sorts of complicated, strong or fixed positions.
I had barely any experience as a dancer, but somehow I knew in this moment that moving around, rather than being still, was precisely what my body wanted to do. So I indulged.
I had to strip myself of some of my social conditioning first. For example, one of my most beloved teachers told our class one day that she didn’t like to play music during yoga class because yoga and dance were separate things for her. I, on the other hand, often really loved to play music during my home practice, but since my teacher was someone I respected, I found myself wanting to be a “good girl” and practice the way she taught me as much as I could. However, if I was going to listen to what my soul was calling for in that moment, I had to forget about thinking I needed to please her and let some damn music move through me. So that’s what I did.
At some times, moving into stillness is frightening. The idea of sitting still for an extended period of time can make one feel too constricted and controlled. At other times, allowing oneself to sway one’s hips and be unleashed into a dance can be a more terrifying practice. There could be risk either way, depending on what one is used to.
There are all sorts of practices – possibly as many as there are stars in the sky. There is value in allowing oneself to practice something that makes one a little bit uncomfortable. Paradigm shifts – getting unstuck from our patterns – can often come from this. There is also value in recognizing we are serendipitously being called toward something we didn’t expect to be called to, which could be even more amazing than the alternative we had in our mind.