Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Yoga of YogaDance

(Disclaimer of sorts: these are my own musings on yogadance. I do not speak for every teacher of yogadance, obviously.)

When I have a new student in yogadance class, I have this one line summary for them:  The yoga of yogadance is about bringing yogic breath and mindfulness to dance and natural movement.

If you come to yogadance from a dance background (as I do), this sentence holds, I think, extra power and meaning.  So often young dancers were taught to hold in their stomachs and they certainly were never reminded to breathe.  Oh, no, what did breath have to do with anything?!  Too often, they were taught implicitly or explicitly to ignore signals from their bodies that something was wrong.  A pain!?  Get over it!  There is dancing to be done!

If you come to yogadance from a yoga background (which I also do), this sentence makes immediate sense.  (Putting yoga into my dance was a miracle in my life.)

In my class, we start with floor work that is focused on warming up the spine.  I use a lot of Kundalini yoga here.  I believe too many yoga teachers do not warm the body but just slam it into postures. (A sun salutation is not a warm up to this dancer's body!)  The spine is often ignored all together except as the pathway to forward bends and folds.

But a heated and strong spine is a healthy and flexible spine and from that flexibility comes the flexibility of the limbs.

Nothing happens without a healthy and happy spine.

Once we are warm -- and by warm, I mean to the point of sweating profusely -- we really start to move, really start to explore natural movement as it comes to each of us.  We explore the body first in segments and then as a whole.

This system of healing movement is for every body type and it brings not only physical fitness but experiences of profound and deep joy.  For me (and others), it can also lead to moving meditation.

But again, it's important to bring yoga to the dance -- including mindfulness of one's own limitations, which I cannot know for you as the leader of the experience.

If you know, for example, that you tend to have joint problems, it is your responsibility to listen for warning signals from your body.

If you are unfit when you first come to class, this can exacerbate all sorts of issues.  Obesity, for example, wears on your joints even when you are just walking so extra care must be taken when you first start pushing your body in new ways.

This is the Yoga.  This is the true Dance.

As the first Sutra says (atha yoga nushasanam), Now the Inquiry of Yoga...

(For my most recent teaching schedule, go here.)


svasti said...

Ah! This is the explanation I've been waiting for! How lovely. And of course, all the yogis reading this are nodding their heads sagely at your movement/breath comments, and also about warming up the body properly before getting into things!

Maybe one day Christine, I'll get to do a class with you :)

Emma said...

Very, very interesting to read more about this! This post explains a lot about what you are doing in your classes. Sounds like a really great thing!

Megan Matthieson said...

In beautiful Santa Barbara the studio is always so cold in the morning. I'm not naturally a 'sweater'. I have to put so much shit on to try and be warm by the end of barre! I can't wait to take class in NY this summer so I can sweat! Your class sounds lovely Christine. xo

Carolynn said...

I wish I lived where I could take your classes. They sound very nourishing.

Elize said...

awesome!! yes, the whole breathing thing, learned in yoga, revolutionized my dancing! your classes sound amazing!

perfectginger said...

If I was in the usa I would go to your classes!. Yoga and dance, I think it´s the perfect combination :). I´m just starting with yoga, and I´ve always loved dancing so much but never found my path. Maybe now! Cheers from Spain!