Originally written by Zara M on  09 October 2013

This weekend we were stretching, balancing and staying grounded for charity at The Ultimate Danceathon for Save the Children. It was wonderful to see and welcome new faces, and to enjoy our Yoga4Tango practice in a new venue, at the Negracha London Tango club. I do enjoy practicing yoga in new environments, and I love that the Yoga4Tango sessions travel about to different Tango venues.

I have to say that I was expecting a very chilled out session; nothing too strenuous or sweaty, as we were to be taking the Tango classes afterwards and also dancing Tango at the Masked Charity Ball. Going back to basics doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be given an easy time though, as my fellow Tango-yogis and I were soon to discover.

I don’t think we were quite prepared for the ‘Warrior Pose’ strength exercises; it is not an easy task to keep your arms extended for lengthy periods of time. The pressure on the muscles in your thighs can also be quite intense if you are not distributing your weight onto the back leg properly; which is an easy thing to forget when you are leaning forward into the ‘Warrior Pose’.

With yoga you really do have to make sure you bring your body and mind in optimum condition. It isn’t about lying around with your eyes closed in a variety of cool-looking positions. Yoga requires concentration, focus and strength, whether you are taking it easy or pushing yourself to the limits. I think you get most out of a yoga session, be it a serious workout or a restorative one, when you approach it with one hundred per cent effort, and fully immerse your body and mind in the overall experience. I seem to get a kind of clarity at the end of a session when I have given it my all, which then transfers into different areas of my life.

I don’t think I was one hundred per cent ‘present’ in this weekend’s ‘Back to Basics’ session, because I am suffering from an insistent cough which affects my ability to take part in the deep breathing exercises. Breathing is an essential part of yoga, it helps with everything! So not being able to inhale deeply for fear of collapsing into a coughing fit did get me down a bit during the session, and I felt less inclined to take part as fully as I usually would.

I was however, pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was for me to move through the sequences in comparison to my first ‘Back to Basics’ class ten weeks ago; which proves that I have come a long way, and that I must be much stronger than I used to be. Sometimes it is difficult to judge for yourself whether you are showing progress, but attending a ‘Back to Basics’ session helps to highlight how far you have come.

We concentrated on really grounding our feet and hands into the floor to create stability and body alignment. The instructor’s descriptions at the beginning of the session drew our attention to the importance of using all four corners of the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet to push down, and feel the energy surge down into the mat. He explained that we can experience the same sort of connection and springy energy transference dancing tango, when we embrace and press our palms into the palms of our dancing partner’s hand. The same goes for our feet; by working on the relationship between the four corners of our feet and the floor we can discover a more satisfying experience of dancing, and one that is both balanced and responsive.

I was interested to see what effect yoga would have on dancing when practiced before and after, so it was good to have the opportunity to practice yoga before the Tango classes and The Masked Ball. I already know that I thoroughly enjoy the restorative Yoga4Tango sessions on Saturdays; they are a really nice way to come down after taking the Tango classes and dancing at the afternoon Milonga at Tango Garden. In a strangely opposite way, a yoga practice before dancing seems to energise the body and put your mind into a relaxed and clear state.

The Saturday and Sunday Yoga4Tango sessions are very different. Sundays are an invigorating and very physical learning experience, whereas I find the Saturday evening sessions much more spiritual, and I seem to be able to connect more with my inner self, and I come away feeling much more philosophical about life.

Last Saturday, Franzi, our instructor, ended the session with a quote that touched my soul for some reason;

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake, is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

Pema Chödrön.

I’m not sure why it touched me. Maybe I have just had a rough week, and it was nice to be reminded that life is challenging for positive reasons. That’s another thing I love about yoga, it isn’t just about exercise; it is about tuning in, and gaining insight and illumination.

I am looking forward to getting rid of this cough so that I can fully open up my chest and take in all the air I need to get the most out of my yoga practices. At the moment I feel I am being stopped halfway, unable to reach the heights of fulfilment I crave. I wonder though, how much of it is physical prevention and how much is in the mind. The more you think you can’t do something, the more crippled you become.

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