Thursday, July 30, 2009

Moving From Within

Ok. So I have just discovered the So You Think You Can Dance television show this summer. I am hooked! Now in its fifth season, the show features professional dancers who get weekly challenges with professional choreographers and compete to become “America’s Favorite Dancer.”

As a feminist pop culture critic, I see the flaws with this and every other reality show. But what intrigues me about So You Think You Can Dance is how profoundly “moving” the performances are, with top notch dancers and seasoned choreographers. The performances stir something. They inspire. They intrigue. As the show’s producer points out, dance is a medium for emotions that cannot be expressed any other way.

Good dance, like yoga, comes from a place of deep embodiment. Many physical activities in the U.S. are about mind over body, or about achieving a particular body type. Anusara® Yoga, on the other hand, comes from a pavriti perspective. Unlike the nivriti perspective that seeks to transcend the body, the pavriti path celebrates the body as a key part of our integrated experience.

Anusara® Yoga, then, is about honoring our bodies as part of our holistic experience. We move from core to periphery, so that our actions come from the inside out. We have to first come into our hearts and know who we are, then expand out and share that with the world. This yoga recognizes that our bodies have wisdom and helps us cultivate our connection with that wisdom.

This is a profound shift in a culture that often encourages disembodiment. Women are particularly susceptible to disembodiment. We are barraged by objectifying images around us and often experience sexism in our daily lives. For survivors of trauma, disembodiment is often a survival mechanism. The detachment and isolation that results from this disconnection with our bodies has a price.

But we cannot merely tell people to become embodied. If we are living a disembodied life, we often don’t even know the full extent of it, much less how to change it. Physical practices like yoga can help heighten our experiences of embodiment. Yoga offers tools through which to become aware of our bodily experiences with compassion and affirmation. This compassionate self-reflection, along with the support of a yoga kula (community), is key.

I used to think that I didn’t understand dance, so I rarely went to performances. I wanted “get it” intellectually when the true heart of dance is to feel it emotionally and physically. My practice on the mat has changed that. Yoga has opened new doors for how to participate and make sense of the world.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful reminder to us as women on the importance of taking care of ourselves, so we can go from inward care to outward giving to others. Thank you Dr. Berila for being so willing to open youself up to us and teach us along your journey!