You may know that I was a dancer for a long time (20+ years) before ever rolling out a yoga mat. Movement has always been in my bones. The story goes that I never smiled, so my mom put me into dance when I was three to learn some showmanship [i.e. learn how to smile]. I continued dancing through school, college, post-college. I competed. I performed at the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial, countless stages around the country. Aside from practicing and performing, I started teaching dance when I was 14.
Dancing on a stage, even in the studio, was an otherworldly experience for me. The ability to tell a story through music, motion, and expression came pretty naturally with regular encouragement and discipline. I didn’t have the most amazing extension or the perfect feet, but I could feel music. I could make an audience feel the way I wanted them to feel.
I felt connection through dance. Connection back to myself, to those around me, to something much greater than you and me. I was able to release negative emotions through movement and invite how I wanted to feel with each breath and turn. I couldn’t have articulated it that way years ago, but this was a movement of devotion, like a moving meditation. I remember trying to share this feeling with some friends in seventh grade science class, our beakers and composition notebooks laid out...and then being laughed at and told I was weird. So I stopped talking about it.
Why am I bringing this up again now? Because I feel it in yoga, too. I’m not performing for anyone, but when I practice (especially with music or even the ocean churning in the background like on my recent vacation) movement comes freely. I let go. I surrender. I invite. I feel connected. I write this because I’m betting there is something that you have in your life that brings this connection, too. Maybe it’s making music or playing baseball or rolling on the floor with your kids or baking pies with your auntie. Or maybe it’s a certain place you visit.
This concept reminds me of one of the Paths of Yoga (of which there are four to six, depending on who you’re talking to). In this instance, I think about the Bhakti Path of Yoga, meaning devotion. What does that mean? When we practice Bhakti Yoga, we are choosing love above all else. Through a Bhakti yoga practice, we cultivate feelings of connection, peace, wisdom, and work on releasing negativity, fear, anxiety.
In an even more practical sense, we can find elements of Bhakti in our everyday lives if yoga isn’t your primary way to connect with your Self/Source/Universe/Divine/Spirit/God/etc. Think about it: What actions, movement, or places help you feel connected? Grounded, but also elevated? Alive? Loved? What are you doing while you’re there? What are you doing as you move? Wouldn’t you want to do more of it, go there often, be with those people? And, why ? To feel love, right? To feel calm, collected, rejuvenated. Maybe, even to have a spiritual experience.
I no longer dance like I used to, but elements of that discipline show itself every time I step on the mat. Dance influences my teaching. I can’t help it - music and movement fuels my soul and feeds my spirit. It reminds me that I am love, that I am limitless, the I have so much to offer in the forms of joy, wisdom, and nurturing community. That’s what the Bhakti path does. Remember, you have all this within you, too. So go out and do the thing that reminds you that you are love. That you’re surrounded by it. And, if you have a moment, drop me a line and tell me what your "thing" is. I love to hear from you and respond to every message.