In Part I, I told the story of my very first yoga class experience. In Part II, I wanted to share how yoga began to enter my life as a professional dancer. This post discusses some of the connections between yoga and dance that are at the heart of why I began to dive deeper into my yoga studies.
Yoga and Dance: Making the Connection
When I began my yoga practice, I must admit it was the physical practice that first lured me to the mat. The new vocabulary and focus excited me, as it challenged my body in a whole new way. As a professional dancer or performer, there is always a point when you need another view to understand your instrument when the vernacular and regimen of your craft is not enough. Through those other explorations, gathering your own experiences, emotions, challenges, journeys, and questions, you find the power to fine-tune.
Yoga was my guide. Through its wisdom and unique language, it unlocked a whole new set of possibilities for me in my dancing. I learned how to effectively use my breath, and my body became more balanced, supple, and strong. I danced better, and with more freedom.
What I did not anticipate was how the yoga practice would intellectually and mentally stimulate me. It pushed me beyond my physical capabilities to a hub of endless inspiration. The lessons in history, philosophy, ethical practices, meditation, and breathing techniques were received as companion volumes to my asana practice. These lessons offered background, context, and a sense of journey to my life on the mat. Eventually, my curiosity expanded beyond the postures I was practicing. I knew studying this ancient practice was where I needed to spend more time…mind and body were being nurtured together. There was a connection!
At first my yoga practice and dance practice were separate. Organically, I began to think more about dance on the mat and yoga at the barre. A connection had been established, but it needed to be cultivated continuously. Yoga was not meant to be a replacement for dance. Rather, they interfaced in an effortless way. For a thinking dancer, the union of an intellectual playground and physically intelligent practice was a dream come true.
Yoga gave me the tools to allow my mindfulness and awareness to sharpen. The practice helped me turn the corner from dancer to artist.
Below are some key revelations that yoga brought to my dancing over the years. This is the short version of a very long list. The lessons keep on coming! Perhaps reading them will inspire you to cultivate your own yoga practice to enrich whatever you are passionate about.
(And for further inspiration, look into our feature article in Dance Teacher Magazine’s August 2013 issue! http://www.dance-teacher.com/2013/08/technique-taramarie-perri/)
• Yoga did not take away from my dancerly technical facility. Instead, it taught me possibility, increased range of motion, stamina, balance, core integration, and patience.
• Yoga gave me the space to look inside and become intimate with my unique facility, including strengths, weaknesses, alignment specifics, and injury prevention needs.
• Yoga taught me that a small adjustment could make a huge difference.
• Yoga allowed me to be creative in finding solutions to challenges, but also to know where my edge was and when I needed to let go.
• Yoga slowed me down and taught me to listen, look, and sense subtlety.
• Yoga handed me the keys to open the door to a system of care and overall well-being.
• Yoga took me deeper into the understanding of why I was dancing, not just how I was dancing.
• Yoga revealed choices for me as an artist and taught me the importance of honoring my individual pathway in my performance and teaching careers.
• Yoga developed my understanding that living with a stronger mind-body connection could bring adventure to everything I did onstage and off.
• Yoga freed me to allow ongoing learning and asking questions be an active part of my creative process.
Yoga has been an honest friend and a relentless guide. It would also seem that yoga has been my muse.
- TaraMarie Perri
Photo credit: Sophie Kuller, Dancer: Ruth Howard