After not having set foot on dance floor for over 3 months, I decided to attend a weekend dance event. I originally started doing West Coast Swing in 2004 because I had a lot of spare time after getting my Master’s degree, and I loved how it made me feel physically and emotionally. Many studies have shown that dancing is good for your health, but I can also attribute dancing to making me more engaged with the outside world. And like yoga, I believe it has helped in unraveling my insides, some of which aren’t always pretty.
Part of the reason I hadn’t been dancing was because I felt like it had become a choice to dance or pursue my yogic studies. There always seemed to be too many things at odds with one another in each of these passions. For Ayurveda and yoga, I got up early, I ate light and clean, I practiced mindfulness and compassion. For dancing, I stayed up until Ayurveda would have me wake, food and alcoholic drinks were a prevalent and constant temptation, not to mention all the competition, ego, judgement, and cliques that seemed the norm in the dance community.
But since yoga is really about a way of living in the world (99% of which happens off the mat), I decided to use the dance weekend as a test: could I be a yogi while participating in the hobby I used to enjoy so much? Here’s how it went.
- 8:30 pm: I arrived at the hotel, pleased as punch that I had two, like-minded and considerate roommates with whom to share the weekend. Space in the room was respectfully shared from the moment I arrived. I felt content, and I set an intention to have fun this weekend.
- 9:30 pm: While watching the first competition, I caught myself judging other dancers, trying to select who’d come in first, second, or third place, and made comments to nearby friends about outfits and dancing (some good and some not so good). I vowed to just sit and enjoy watching others express themselves while doing something that gave them pleasure.
- 10 pm: My former dance partner (a vegan, neuro-muscular massage therapist tickled at my yogic interests) asked me, “are you the same person?” I smiled confidently and replied, “No, I’m not.” Friends encouraged me to compete the next day, and I knew I needed to make a decision by the morning.
- 11 pm: Having gotten up at 5am, I felt jet-lagged. I decided I’d had a long day, and turned in. (Something unheard of at a dance event.)
- 6:15 am: After initially waking at 4 am I got up and did some yoga postures, meditated, and then decided to compete.
- 9 am: I started to second guess my decision, thinking it wouldn’t be worth the hit to my self-esteem. I observed this indecisiveness as a pattern, realized it was not good for me, and chose to just own the decision I made instead of doubting it. I felt better.
- 12 pm: I was proud of myself for maintaining phase 3 of my Buddha cleanse, eating the lunch I had brought with me.
- 1 pm: I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with two professional instructors who surprised and inspired me by talking all about how important the breath is while dancing because it calms the body and enables communication with your partner. They had us breathe deeply in, pause slightly at the top, and exhale through our movements. I was so excited and grateful I could hardly contain myself! Pranayama on the dance floor!
- 3:15 pm: I spent the next several hours trying to find my full yogic breath while social dancing in between comps. Initially it was distracting, and I couldn’t do that and keep my steps. But after a short time, I started to feel my breath as grounding. Just what I needed. I did feel as though my breath could breathe life into my dance!
- 4:30 pm: My roommate and I rushed to get ready for comps. We’d been chatting about this amazing rhythmic yoga flow and completely lost track of time. I had 3 really fun dances, where I truly breathed and felt comfortable in my body while on the competition floor. (Competing without freaking out is an issue for me for as long as I’ve been alive.)
- 5 pm: Some friends in a lower division got called back for semis. I quickly ran to the restroom so I could be back in time to watch them dance. When I emerged from the stall, I saw a wall of urinals and a close friend turned around to say, “Kali, you in the right place?” I panicked and ran out, amazed at how un-mindful I’d been. I continued this by nearly sitting on a guy’s lap when I got back into the ballroom because he’d taken my chair. Of course my friends thought all this was hysterical.
- 6:15 pm: A pro told me and a friend / fellow competitor that we looked good on the floor. I started to have hopes of making finals.
- 7 pm: I realized once five of us arrived at the restaurant for dinner that I’d screwed up the reservation and we didn’t actually have one. My friends were so kind (reminding me gently of my earlier mishaps) and the restaurant was accommodating. I breathed with the discomfort of not being perfect, and tried to accept that that’s really OK. My friends loved me anyway.
- 8 pm: I found out I was only one of three other girls cut completely from the finals list. Part of me said, “of course, you haven’t danced in 3 months, what do you expect?” Another part was sad and disappointed. Yet another was thrilled for my roommate, who did make the cut. Behind it all, my true Self is amazed I’m actually remembering my yoga training and starting to allow myself to >feel each layer of my emotions.
- 9 pm: I felt really tired. One of my roommates talked me out of breaking my Buddha cleanse with a coffee. I decided to do Viparita Karani instead, but never ended up actually doing it.
- 9:30 – 11 pm: I did battle with my “itty bitty shitty committee“. My roommate told me to dance with a more advanced guy–I did, and while it was fine, I still felt like it was a “pity dance”. When she wanted to teach yoga with me at dance events, I wondered why. I wanted to eat something I shouldn’t. I doubted my ability to be a good dancer, a good yoga teacher, to maintain a healthy body. I saw a woman who I’ve had issues with in the past and this riled me up. I reluctantly danced with the beginner who kept asking me, and wondered why on earth he was so persistent. Then suddenly I remembered my intention for the weekend: FUN!
- 11:30 pm: I complained to a friend about the dude selling dance shoes, because he’d been saying wacky things to me about buying something every time I pass his tables. Soon after it occurred to me that maybe I could be more light-hearted about it.
- 12:30 am: I had good dances with old friends and new partners. I got a second wind. I focused on having a good time. I marveled at how applicable my yoga training was: emotions really are just waves one has to ride; the amount of time between them just varies, as does their magnitude.
- 2:30 am: I kindly explained to the man who had been asking me to dance repeatedly that I was really flattered but there were a lot of people I hadn’t seen in awhile who I’d like to dance with. He took it well, and I didn’t feel like I’d been a snob.
- 3:30 am: I was tickled when a pro I liked started running around the social floor with a child-like grin on his face, cutting in on random couples and stealing followers for a few passes. They must have been tickled too!
- 4 am: I hadn’t been on the floor for about 45 minutes, and so I decided to call it a night. A respectable time for a dance event. I felt proud of myself.
- 9 am: I woke up after having had less than 5 hours of sleep, which I knew was less than what my body needed. I spotted one of my roommates on her yoga mat, and got down on the floor myself. I heard her Ujjayi breathing and started my own short flow, listening to what my body needed me to pay attention to after all that dancing. I smiled when I glanced up and saw that we were in similar postures. I felt very connected to her.
- 10 am: The three of us worked together perfectly to all get showers and pack up in time for the 11 am check out. I felt even more grateful that these lovely people were in my life.
- 11 am: After taking half of my gear outside, I became too enamored by the beautiful sunny day to spend it sitting or dancing in the air-conditioned ballroom. After checking with my roommate that she’d be OK with me missing her dance in the afternoon, I said some other goodbyes. One couple told me I should have taught a morning yoga class; I agreed and hoped to offer something the following year.
- 3:30 pm: I wrote this blog, feeling like yes, I could attend another dance event, AND remain true to my yoga practices. In fact, as with anything else in life, YOGA JUST HELPS YOU LIFE.
- 7 pm: I found out my roommate placed 5th, and that a dear friend came in 1st place. I texted them both back with a big smile on my face, sending them my love as part of celebrating their success, and knowing that my value as a person had nothing to do with whether I placed in a dance competition.
Note: July 2012 repost.