Being the company’s 10 year anniversary, Cedar Lake took on loads of touring for its 2013-2014 season. Traveling around the UK, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, and all throughout California, Arizona, and the west coast of the US, not only were we experiencing physical challenges each performance, but the travelling between each city had many effects on our minds and bodies as well. We noticed our hips getting tight, our spines becoming compressed, and our shoulders hunching from so much sitting, whether it be on a plane or a bus (see article
). Different aspects of yoga became the way to counter those challenges for many of the company members. You could almost always catch a dancer in a downward dog or forward bend, and sometimes even an inversion in the airport lounge, at the rest stop, or even in the aisle of the bus. Not only did the asanas act as a physical remedy for our bodies by lengthening our spines and opening our hips and hearts, but the meditative and pranayama aspect of our practices helped keep us focused and mindful for the shows ahead of us.
These practices especially came in handy during a particularly challenging performance in Park City, Utah. With an altitude above 7,500 feet, tons of fog on stage, and the most exhausting piece in our repertoire on the program (the choreographer’s goal was to push us so hard that we enter a different state for the rest of the piece), we had no choice but to truly focus on our breath and be present in the moment or we ran the risk of passing out. The preparation before the performance proved to be equally as important. Before every show, I now find time to focus on my breathing and practice pranayama techniques, primarily using alternate nostril breathing. I’ve been finding this to be even more important than warming up my physical body before a show. If the mind is not prepared for the work ahead, then there's no guidance for the body to move safely and mindfully. When I guided some interested dancers through the practice of alternate nostril breathing, they experienced their minds clearing instantaneously and noticed themselves becoming more mindful and enjoying their show even more.
Since practicing yoga, I’ve experienced the difference between performing on a high and performing mindfully. Where I used to just throw my body on the stage, “giving it my all” and thinking I had a great show, I wasn’t able to remember things that happened on stage afterwards because I was dancing solely off of adrenaline (not to mention that's a dose for injury central). My pre-show rituals now, which include yoga and meditation, have allowed me to truly enjoy those moments on stage and not just punch my way through them. It's taught me to care for my body, taking time to restore and heal itself.
After a long tour with show after show, states and countries with different food and water, my grounding force was my yoga practice. The consistency of my practice reminded and brought me back into my mind and body within my new surroundings. Whether you’re traveling or not, change and transition are constantly influencing our lives and us. What will be your grounding force as we approach this transition into spring?
- Ida Saki