Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Wild Dance of Life

Once again there was a demon loose in the world that only a woman could do away with (ladies, are we sensing a theme here??).   Shiva’s consort Parvati steps up, taking the ferocious form of Kali to do battle with him.  A fierce battle ensues and eventually Kali dispatches the demon as she was meant to.  But the battle was so riveting that she becomes enraptured with battle lust and to clear that energy she begins to dance.  Once she starts she can’t stop, she becomes entranced and she dances into the forest and moves so wildly that the trees begin to shake, and the world threatens to come apart.  Seeing this, Shiva intervenes to try and break her trance to no avail.  After several unsuccessful attempts he realizes that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and he challenges her to a dance contest. Now Shiva is the famous Nataraja, the king of all dancers, so guess who wins this one? He begins to dance with her, and as he loses himself to his own rhythm his dance becomes even wilder than hers.   When he becomes so wild that now the planets are threatening to spin out of their orbits her reverie is finally broken, she comes out of the trance in order to settle him down and life itself settles back into normalcy.

I think it’s perfect that we are reflecting on this story during the week of Mother’s Day. Anyone who has ever raised children, or even babysat, knows this paradigm well because children are really good at dancing wildly through life!   When things start to get crazy sometimes the best thing you can do is just get down and dirty with whatever is going on.  Join in the unruliness and let it run its course.  First and foremost this story tells us that we can’t fight what is - life itself is a wild dance, sometimes we just have to surrender to it and let the dance move through us, to let the rhythm of the universe move us and just move with it.

I had a friend going through a difficult divorce a few years ago and when the battle got really fierce and she was feeling really angry or overwhelmed by it she would put on some really loud music and just dance.  Energy needs to be moved through the body to be released, and dancing does that.  Kali knew it, and my friend knew it – it was cleansing.  Music itself takes us to a deeper realm of existence. It connects us to the intrinsic rhythms of our bodies; the cadence of our heartbeat, the pulse of our breath, and when we move our bodies in time with a steady rhythm like Kali we can become entranced.  Surrendering into a dance connects us to intuition, emotion and our primal source of being.

And yet there are times we have to learn to tame the wild dance of life – when we acknowledge it is happening but we have to do our jobs and take care of our families and pay our bills.  This is the opportunity to channel it; to still let it move us but harness it and use it to propel us forward in the direction we wish to go rather than control us.  Fortunately yoga gives us the wisdom and the tools to do both.

Off the Mat:
Dance!  Put on your favorite song to rock out to and let go!  Here’s some inspiration from Shiva Rea:

On the Mat:
This week in my classes we surrendered to the music for warm ups, moving with the rhythm and letting it move through our whole bodies, warming up from toes to nose.  Then we worked on taming the dance, pulling in to the midline to harness it's power to move us into radiant and expressive arm balances, from Bakasana variations to Eka Pada Bakasana Sirsasana II (my own crazy invention) to Eka Pada Bakasana.  We stayed fully present to the breath as the dance of the goddess within us, finding the balance of being breathed and consciously breathing, dancing with Kali in all her glory.

For the Anusara Junkies:
Open To Grace: Breathe in and open to the dance of life.
Grip your fingers into your mat to find an anchor point in the wild dance of life.

Muscular Energy: Adduct the lower arms (in caturanga and arm balancing poses) to tame the dance.
Adduct the inner thighs (in Bakasana) to steady the dance as it rages inside.
Hug the midline to connect to stillness in the wild dance of life.

Organic Energy:  (As the last step of Shoulder Loop) Expand your upper back to find levity in your dance of this pose.
Press out from your heart to your hands and your hips (in arm balances), making your dance lighter and freer.

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