A friend of mine took up tango recently and is clearly hooked by it, though I think she feels one step behind (pun intended) picking something up in her 40s. This reminds me of my yoga asana. She mentioned an article she’d been reading recently called “Why your dance does not look good despite all the practicing“. Again something I think about in yoga asana. The desire for a graceful, fluid practice.
The article made me laugh in the comment about the effects of desk-work on our posture and movement as well as how “a lot of students start their tango classes basically as a brain on two legs”. Definitely me at the beginning of my yoga journey and much of my yoga seems to be about loosening my brain along with all my muscles.
This sentence too could have been about yoga: “A lot of tension in our muscles is the result of our ego-related anxieties. Mindfulness meditation or simply being in a happy mood makes your body more relaxed because you loosen up the tightness inside yourself that you unconsciously associate with this feeling of “me” and what this “me” represents. When you relax your mental grip, you let go of some of your muscular tension. In dance it is very important to be able to let go of this imagined tight “me” to dance from your true expansive self.”
So yoga asana and tango are both physical activities where self-expression, true embodiment, is important. But I think of tango as a performance, something meant to be watched, whilst yoga is more about experience than visual spectacle. I have (mostly!) stopped performing for others in class. Sure, I used to worry about what those around me thought of my practice, how it looked, whether my teacher was pleased with what I was doing and whether it was ‘right’ by some undefined standard of correctness. But inevitably those concerns fade away as you realise that no-one else cares about your practice (or not in any meaningful way) and that even (especially) the teacher is not going to be impressed by anything — and what would it signify if he were.
Do I worry that my practice doesn’t look beautiful? I’d be lying if I said no! But does beauty exist if there’s no-one to see it? What is beauty if it’s not in the eye of a beholder? I feel like I’m venturing into “what’s the sound of one hand clapping” territory here. But it’s an interesting question to wonder why aesthetics matter in something I claim is about experience not exhibition.
I think it’s because beauty, grace, fluidity on the outside equate to those qualities on the inside. And if I manifest them in my asana, it’s because I’ve achieved some tiny sense of transcendence. It might not be about the sanctity of yoga, or the divine within, but I know that feeling truth and harmony on the inside by definition look good on the outside, whether that’s the conscious intention or not.
I did some idle post-class stretching last night, just on the rug while Hubby was watching TV. Actually I found he had also been watching me from the corner of his eye. He said afterwards I looked amazing. Seriously? Doing hamstring stretches in my PJs? Perhaps love is blind. Perhaps he’s easily impressed. Or perhaps I was just in a happy place, feeling safe and contented at home, and that somehow gave some gracefulness to these simple physical movements. I realised as we talked afterwards that they had certainly felt good, good in the sense of right and true and harmonious.
image sources: http://gancho.info/why-your-dance-does-not-look-good-despite-all-the-practicing; http://www.iluvquotes.com/a-story-about-how-love-is-blind.