I love to dance. Really love to dance. It’s been my passion ever since I was eight years old and first saw Flashdance. There was something about that movie, and the main character that sang to my soul.
Here was a woman who defied the mainstream in all respects – Alex was a welder by day, stripper by night, dancer in her dreams.
She faced down her fears by auditioning for a prestigious dance school, despite being different from all the other dancers. She did it her way, and she soared, quite literally, right through the audition.
I can’t remember if the end of of the movie shows Alex getting in to the school or not – it’s been a long time since I saw this movie and my memory is fuzzy, but I do remember the joy as she dashed out of the room and ran down the street, ecstatic at doing what she’d always dreamed of.
Ever since dancing has always held the magic of the dream within it. Dancing is letting go and opening up and releasing the joy that lies inside all of us at all times.
At least, it is for me. It’s impossible for me to stay sad, or depressed, or fearful when I surrender to the music and to the dance.
There’s a simple reason for this.
Dancing brings me into the present.
I can feel my body, and the body only exists here and now. Not in the past, not in the future.
My passion for dance has it’s very own soundtrack too I adore Madonna.
She’s another strong, fearless woman who defied the mainstream in every which way. A dancer before she became a singer, Madonna has always made great dance music.
Over the years of listening to her dance tracks I have created positive grooves of joy within that serve me well in times of need. I only need throw on Confessions on a Dancefloor and the music shifts my mood effortlessly. No matter how I may feel, no matter what is going on in my life, the dance brings me home.
More and more in my life I’m using this technique to create the place I want to be in. I’m remembering the things that unleash my joy and I’m bringing more of them into my life at every opportunity. I’m noticing when I’ve become trapped in my mind, spinning old patterns of thought and behaviour, and I use this technique to bring me into the present.
This is the positive side of samskara, something we so often only think of as something negative to be released, transcended, or let go of.
Samskaras are part of being human, they start before we are even born, and colour our lives physically, mentally and emotional. They are impressions made on consciousness by past thoughts or actions. These are the patterns of behaviour that make us who we are. Part of the process of yoga is becoming aware of samskaras of our lives – both negative and positive.
Stephen Cope in his book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self has this to say about samskara:
In the yogic view, the energy of trauma, of contraction, of resistance to life, of holding on, is understood to penetrate deeper than the neuromuscular systems… it penetrates into the subtle energy body, the pranamayakosha, where it is finally held… These unconsciously held energy knots are called samskara.
So the impressions of our past thoughts and actions are contained not just in habitual patterns of behaviour, not just in the physical body, but also in the energetic body. This is samskara, and this is what is released and surrendered when we begin to practice yoga, when we bring the penetrating light of awareness and clear sight to our habitual thoughts and behaviour.
For so long I was hell bent on this path – on healing, on releasing, surrendering and letting ago the negative samskaras I had built up. I was always mindful of what I didn’t want to be anymore, of what I was moving away from. This was all good and well, but it meant I was completely missing the joy of living – the things I did love about me and my life, the things I wanted to experience more, the things that brought me joy.
In my haste to work through samskara I’d forgotten that samskara could be positive too. That certain thoughts and actions could create a posiive response in the neuromuscular system – like flexibility and strength, and in the energetic body.
I’d forgotten the joy in things like blasting Madonna… like dancing… like going to other people’s yoga classes…
All the inner work I’d been doing was illuminating and I was becoming more and more aware of my samskaras – such as my habitual response to emotional pain of running away either mentally, or physically. Intellectually, I was getting it. But samskaras don’t just exist in the mind and they’re not changed via the intellect. We are creatures of the material, manifest world and literally embody our Selves – mentally and emotionally. All the insight in the world wasn’t helping me access joy because I wasn’t moving my body.
And as Stephen says, just moving the body isn’t enough either. We need to access the energetic body. And aside form yoga, what better way than dancing?
So last November, when I began to dance again – in my living room, in my study, in the kitchen, at the beach… something awoke within. My joy for life came back. A joy that I’d first recognised in Alex from Flashdance. I loved that movie and I loved her character because even at eight years old, I saw a part of me that I wanted to claim, that I wanted to bring out. I saw me, in all her glory.
Now, when the negative samskaras arise, no matter how clear my insight into what’s actually going on, I’ve discovered the best way not to go down that tired old road again isn’t to resist it, or push it away, or deny it, or try not to be it. No, the best way is to change direction and go towards the other road – the road of joy and light, to embrace my positive samskaras. So I throw on Madonna, I stand up wherever it is that I am and I let the music take me.
And as I dance, I’m reminded of all the other times I’ve danced with joy – in my living room at age eight, in my bedroom as a teenager, in clubs and at dance parties in my twenties, on podiums and stages as a go go dancer, on my yoga mat at prana flow and now… back in my living room again.
As I dance, I shift from a place of contraction, resistance, holding on and I allow life to explode out of me, working deep into my physical body and energetic body.
It is bliss.
It is joy.
It is yoga.