Friday, January 13, 2012

Dancing With My Music

The NYTimes has an article offering the devil's advocate position that yoga does more harm than good. It interviews several teachers and students who have experienced injuries from yoga and concludes that yoga might not be for most people. I could do the same thing by interviewing builders who have gotten into workplace accidents and then asking if hammers are dangerous?

Yoga is a physical tool. The use of it is up to the individual. I find it really bizarre that some people expect yoga to have some Eastern magic in it that shields them from injury, ego, greed, or anything else that people carry with them all the time. Certainly I think yoga is one of the better tools for opening the body and have experienced that personally. But I also love studying healing and matrix energetics. Dr. Richard Bartlett of matrix energetics ridicules yoga from the belief there is some self-existent good. I'm listening to his series in the car and he repeatedly makes fun of Buddhism and chakras, but then clarifies "I don't believe in chakras. I also don't believe in trees. They are constructs."

More and more I'm finding in movement practice my body does somethng. I went to yoga again last night and then went out dancing. Previous night I went to zumba dance class and then went out dancing. Today I had acupuncture and I will probably dance tonight. For dance, I used to be able to dance for hours and I would find my body discovering new contortions and motions. The more I danced, the more free my body became by creating new pathways in the mind.

Getting back into dancing now I find that it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get warmed up creatively. At first my body will bob in a monotonous holding pattern or shift back and forth into some basic moves in my tool kit. And that's when people usually stop dancing either out of getting bored or tired. I find that monotonous holding pattern is the launching pad for breaking out. Similar to when I break through the first 15 minutes swimming in the ocean and then find I can swim for an hour non-stop. The mind gets free and taps into a larger source of potential. Medtation happens the same way for me. There's very little difference between doing 20 minutes and doing 90 minutes because once I pass a certain pre-conditioned threshold, I let go and fall into another larger pool.

I'd like to get back to that point in yoga. When I was in Nicaragua I was doing yoga every morning and I got to a certain point where certain moves that were in the past difficult to hold for a minute, no longer even made me sweat. At that point my body and mind began to play with the movement once I had passed that habituated threshold. I was doing these things with my body that I couldn't have imagined only a month prior to that. And then it becomes real yoga, which is 'educare' from sanskrit of self-education: the body self-teaches the movements it needs. Similar to when I'm dancing, the primordial mind begins to put itself into new postures that unlock tensions. That's why a lot of yoga poses are named after animals, from tapping into that primordial flexibility, or just the natural flexibility of a healthy child's body when it comes into the world. The well-trained yoga teachers (especially the older ones) all emphasize that these movements or asanas are suggestions. The dharma move the body into the direction of self-education b/c that's the only way it really works. Yoga doesn't work b/c I can force myself into a headstand or try to impress and push myself into a bridge pose b/c everyone else is class is doing it.

I've seen ppl in dance classes hurt themselves b/c everyone else is doing a cool move and they want to do it. But in African and Indian dances the movements are suggestions. The end of each class at Alvin Ailey is freestyle and it's amazing what a flowing body can do once it's warmed up. These are accountants, lawyers, and school teachers in the middle of the urban jungle who can suddenly tap into something yearning to get out. As Wayne Dyer said 'you don't want to die with your music stil in you.' It feels like their internal music is being released in these classes and there is just this joy (usually followed by self-conscious embarrassment that they were so free for a moment)

One day at the end of dance class I found myself freestyling Congolese in perfect synchronicity to the drums. I responded and they responded and it built in this jazz-like flow. And then I ended right when I needed to. I wanted to go on dancing but my body was like 'this is the end of this set.' The drummers read that and ended right on the mark, without me signaling them. They were reading my body and energy and I was reading their rhythms. Looking on was a group of black teenagers and kids cracking jokes. Part of my mind said 'oh no, are they going to make fun of me or laugh at this big guy moving around.' And when I stepped into the circle I said 'fuck it.' I just couldn't be concerned, my focus was on talking to the drums not my fears. When I finished I looked over the teenagers had this grudging respect. I had danced like a free man, something I doubt they were experiencing in their 'back against the wall' sarcasm. My music was flowing out of me.

The obvious chicken and egg question: who was reading who first? Was I initially reading the drums or where they reading me? The dancer answer: who cares?!? The Buddhist answer: when there is no duality there is oneness. There is no first or last read. Buddhist dancer answer: The drummer and dancer continually interacted long before and long after the class. The drums of the heart, pulse, feet, and other percussions flow on and intertwine with external drums.

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