Yoga is Self Study, Self Discipline and Self Devotion

Originally written by Zara M on  13 November 2013

Have you ever gone into that calm, meditative state while you are dancing Tango; and though your eyes may be open, you’re simultaneously present and in a complete realm of your own at the same time? This is what I experienced during the Yoga4Tango class last weekend.  Perhaps I was looking to escape the chaos in my head, and the yoga class helped me to switch off and let it all go. Sometimes I think of yoga as quite a self-absorbed activity, but never in a bad way; we all need to focus inwards once in a while, preferably on a more regular basis!

The session revisited “Tapas” which stands for “fiery cleansing” in yoga; and means to focus, with acute attention, on cleansing the body and the mind. Yoga is about self-study, self-discipline and self-devotion. During the class I let my mind empty of all the thoughts that had been contaminating it and causing my emotions and logic to become unbalanced, and instead I treated my body as a temple, for an hour and a half, drifting consciously through the pose sequences and feeling an intimate connection to each part of my body I felt working.

Often we are so focused on wanting to forge a connection with someone or something else that we forget how important it is to connect with oneself. It is so easy to become disconnected, and that is when your body and mind becomes a slave to society, it’s expectations and it’s pressures. Once you stop and pull away though, pulling your energy inwards, you can gain a crystal clear perspective on life.

At the beginning of the yoga class, the instructor made a reference to a recent Tango photograph he came across online, where a man and a woman were in an embrace and dancing, and the woman’s hand was pressed firmly against her partner’s back with her fingers spread beautifully in adornment, and all four corners of her palm making the connection with his body. I knew exactly what our instructor was talking about because I have seen this many times at milongas myself, and I have always admired it. The yoga instructor brought our attention to the fact that this woman was forming exactly the same kind of connection with the four corners of her palm on this man’s back, as we do with the mat in our downward dog pose.

The instructor then went on to describe how we should always look for this kind of connection when we are dancing, but that it is not always possible to feel such a connection back from our partners. When this is the case, he said, focus inward and on feeling your own energy, which you project outwards through the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet, come back to you. I really liked this notion of creating a connection with oneself, and this is exactly what we are practicing in every yoga session. We ground ourselves by pressing the palms of our hands and the souls of our feet into the mat, but the mat is not pressing back. We are forming that connection by ourselves, sending the energy outward and feeling it return to us.

I think it is important for us to always be conscious of where we are sending our energy out to, and how, because it will always find it’s way back to us.

During the class we flowed through sequences together in one smooth motion, and it was a wonderfully calming experience for me that evening. I found that my mind was so at peace and sort of working in a way that made me feel like part of it had shut down so that I could maintain an intense inward study of my own bodily movements. We kept coming back to the same stretching pose when we were lying on our backs, and we were prompted to observe how it felt each time. I felt like I was listening to my body and hearing what it had to say.

At the end of the session the instructor stated that in yoga we are constantly studying what our bodies are doing, and the same is true in dancing Tango. He said that with study, the fun is intensified, because the experience is understood on a deeper level and is therefore enriched.

I think that you have to be in the right state of mind for this kind of study to have a positive effect though, because sometimes, when your mind isn’t clear of all the outside noise; you know, those voices that tell you you’re not good enough, then you cannot enter that meditative and healing state of mind, where your self-study becomes a positive and rejuvenating experience.

I have often entered prolonged phases in my dancing where I feel completely hopeless, we all experience this at some point. The more I study myself during these phases, the more I fall apart. Why does that happen? I suppose it is a lack of self-belief and self-love. You can only be receptive to the benefits of self-study if you can believe that you deserve and are capable; and the way to be receptive is to empty your mind of anything that is contaminating it first – just like I did in the Yoga4Tango class.

There’s not enough love circulating in the world these days, so I think we should all save ourselves a bit of our own. I have to say that despite the cold and dark autumn evening, joining my fellow yogis after the class for a warming drink and inspiring conversation at the local Shopping Centre felt like all the positive vibes I had managed to reclaim during the yoga session had been reinforced. I left with my mind feeling at peace, my body feeling like it was a closer part of me, and a smile on my face that was hidden behind a big wooly scarf. I’m glad we still go for a drink after the class even though it is dark and jolly nippy!

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