Not infrequently, people will say after a seemingly sudden illness, “I did not see that coming.” Yet, their body was probably screaming at them to listen. Denial, fear, ignorance, and laziness make us ignore the warning signs of any type of breakdown in our life. It is very common for people to live outside of their body and to be unaware of the conversation it is constantly having with them. We can become focused on career, family, and mortgage and the years pass by with often only a token look at the state of the body.
Sometimes, it is just all too much effort and even knowing where to begin can seem overwhelming. Stress, neglect, lack of awareness, and concentrating on more mental pursuits can pull us away from our relationship with our own body. Like a neglected partner, we forget about it. We know it is there and we rely on its loyalty to us but we barely give it the time of day. Naturally, it will start complaining and eventually may file for divorce, leaving us in a state of ruin.
Our body is important. It’s the first gift God gives us. We are meant to take care of it for the entire time we have it. We are meant to be grateful for it, use it, enjoy it, and learn from it. At the same time, we are not meant to obsess over it, be vain, be a hypochondriac, or be a pleasure seeker at other people’s expense.
As a dancer, it is important to stop thinking. If we let the mind have its way, it will never shut up. One has to have enough mental awareness to know what one is doing and little enough to move with the flow. We cannot help but respond to dancers who are very present. The dancers will have drawn us into ourselves and beyond ourselves. The process is inclusive.
Dancers dance because they learn things about themselves through dancing. They develop parts of themselves that are not yet finished. It’s not necessarily about enjoyment, although, that is always pleasant and fun. It may be confronting, infuriating, depressing or even debilitating. We are generally not learning the thing we think we are and, even less, the thing we want. Dancing helps us to become balanced as a whole entity. It helps us to grow and we should let it do so. We should be grateful for that which makes us grow, even though it may be a love/hate relationship with the very things that are responsible for that growth.
Our body has its own wisdom. It knows things independently of our mind. It knows its weakest parts. It knows the places we have neglected. It knows the parts we have never even met. Talking to our body can be a little confronting at first. It tends to be rather direct and, if we don’t listen, it will slam us with some noisy physical condition or pain so that we have to pay attention.
It is not just physical exercise that the body needs. We also need to learn how to balance and harmonise the body. The conscious, intelligent, patient attention to muscles, organs, and energy centres which is practised in yoga can do just that. The focus on the whole rhythm and flow of our being brings to the individual far more than exercise alone can ever do. Yoga is old. Very old. And that is why it knows such things. It knows that every part of our body affects every other part.
The great yogic tradition is ultimately grounded in the breath. Every movement is synchronised with a breath in or a breath out. It is never random. Yoga is an holistic path. It works on the body, the mind, and the spirit at every point. An aware person can apply the same approach to any discipline. We cannot shut off one part of our being without suffering the consequences.
World renowned violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, said of yoga in 1964, when yoga in the Western world was far from popular, “Reduced to our own body, our first instrument, we learn to play it, drawing from it maximum resonance and harmony.”
Yoga first deconstructs the body and then forms it anew. Leave your competitiveness at the yoga studio door. Take it off with your shoes. It has no place within the sanctioned walls of the yoga studio and will only lead to injury. Breathe in the incense and oil and, with it, take in centuries of yogic knowledge which strives to form you into a whole, healthy, and life-filled being. Be humble. Acknowledge all the ways in which you are not well, strong, supple, and calm. Be brave. Yoga is your friend and will help you to become the beautiful and grounded being that is inside you waiting for release.
This article is from Dance: A Spiritual Affair