My mother always said,
Education without The Arts is not a full education.
Having an artistic background, while teaching in the wellness industry for over 2 decades, afforded me a platform to integrate some of my personal tools.
I would add a little boogie to my bootcamps, incorporate some port-de-bras with weights in my fitness classes, specifically choose music with high vibrational frequency for my playlists, and add a little chair dance or two to chair pose in Yoga classes. Attendees absolutely LOVED it, because it broke up the monotony, which can sometimes plague a fitness class. It also propelled my students to break intellectual boundaries, because they were experiencing the sensations of joy, laughter, silliness, and light heartedness, which can sometimes be lacking in our work outs.
Incorporating clever ways to weave dance, musicality, and even the occasional karaoke sing-alongs uplifted and engaged participants, and created camaraderie, community, and packed classes! Overall performance levels were boosted, moods were enhanced, and different parts of brain lobes were activated, moving from the cognitive left-brain linear focus to embracing right-brain emotionality and creativity.
ARTS and Wellness definitely complement each other, and when fused together within any wellbeing practice, this winning combo elevates the practitioner to simultaneously experience doing & being. Thus, greater harmony, alignment, and balance is accomplished mentally, emotionally, and physically.
For the sake of this piece, I’ll focus mainly on the inclusion of The ARTS, within Yoga, and for the sake of this piece, I’ll also specifically focus on how the climate of the Yoga industry has shifted post-pandemic.
You may have noticed, that some of your favorite teachers may have moonlighted as dancers. Yogis and Yoginis very often shift from a dance career to becoming a full time Yoga teacher, often because it is softer on our bodies, while still providing flexibility and strength.
However, there is still a linear approach to yoga, which does not exist within Dance. While we have made milestones to incorporate holding group Yoga classes surrounded by projections of Van Gogh’s paintings or incorporating farm animals to lighten the mood, there is still a target being missed by the somewhat linear approach to the practice.
I am a BIG fan of goat yoga, by the way; however, there is very little Yoga being practiced, while adorable baby goats are frolicking around you. If you have not yet tried it, I highly recommend taking a class to smile and to uplift your spirits!
While the incorporation of baby goats may put a smile on our faces and bring laughter & chuckles on the mat, shifting the left brain from it’s hyper-vigilant state of execution into the more relaxed state of creative expression in the right-brain hemisphere, it seems to be one or the other. Either we are transfixed on execution and delivery or that completely goes out of the window, and it’s just fun and giggles.
Most traditional Yoga classes in the West primarily focus on the physical dexterity of postures, aka, the execution of asanas. In fact, even having a visual representation of a yoga mat creates a limitation and boundary, which we cannot surpass. We subconsciously train our bodies to balance and practice our skills within the perimeter of a 6'x2' piece of rubber. The need to get it right and stay within the confines of the mat, stokes the left-brain hemisphere. What we actually need is cohesive stimulation of both the right with the left brain hemispheres.
This ability to ignite the brain’s synapses is precisely what gives yogis with a dance background an added edge, so to speak. Trained dancers know how much dedication, time, and countless hours of practice it takes to make their movements fluid and effortless. In fact, a dancer’s focus and delivery must be so precise when performing, that there is a level of discipline required, which even respected athletes like Kobe Bryant, has stated, surpasses even a professional athlete’s own training!
Dancers are athletic artists.
In addition, dancers are asked to display and convey emotionality while performing. Training to execute and training with and through emotionality allows a deeper connection to be fostered with the mind, body, and soul. Without expression and connection to emotionality, a dance routine can be technically well executed, yet feel lack luster. The job of the Artist is to, therefore, train and utilize the functionality of the left brain hemisphere’s capabilities, but also incorporate freedom from non-linear movements, while stimulating creative expression within the right-brain hemisphere.
With this heightened state of elevated consciousness, a Yogi’s practice can be no different from a dancer in training, if the intended applies the same principles of emotional connection to their inner experience through their execution. The very word Yoga translates to yoking or union, and if we can shift from solely doing, into feeling and being while practicing, we can absolutely create a container of blissful union in motion.
When this winning combo is at play, we can begin to experience Tantra, duality. Tantra comes from 2 Sanskrit words, Tanoti and Trayate, expansion and liberation. To experience joy and pleasure during any wellness practice, elevates the very medium and transcends the cerebral mind from it’s go-to state of processing. In this sense, Tantra can be experienced as duality versus singularity or releasing the attachment to one single experience.
A practitioner can become aware of all things at once without focusing on cueing, music, the state of the room, the colors of the wall, or anything which is solely sensory.
Be in the world and not of it.
So how does the yoga practitioner become adept at experiencing the physical and transcendental states, much like an Artist in creative mode?
The answer is simple: AWARENESS.
With awareness, the cerebral mind can be trained to experience the senses and to not become attached to them. The Yogi can feel and do at the same time, and the practice itself becomes a playground for a non-linear approach. Taking ourselves too seriously on the mat can lead to an unhealthy egoic state of self-destruction, self- deprecation, and comparison. However, by incorporating artistic and colorful ways to emotionally connect within while practicing, creates room and spaciousness for us to explore awareness.
So, are ready to experience the joy of Artistic Wellness? I hope so, because I’m looking forward to sharing with you the pleasure of Artistry through Yoga and Movement.