Awkward White Girl Yoga Trance Dancing

So, I tried out the first part of Shiva Rea’s Yoga Trance Dance last night. Let’s just say it was more “awkward white girl with no rhythm dancing” for me! If I had better balance (one of the effects of my cerebral palsy is difficulty with balance when standing), it would probably be really fun, but for me it was more of sensation of joy mixed with nervousness: one part of my brain was going ‘don’t fall down, don’t fall down’ for almost the entire 30 minutes. Have you seen those joke Zumba memes with Jim Carrey? That was how I felt.

And this was just the basic “introduction to trance dance” flow, which opens with some fluid stretching and then alternates between sections of free-form dancing and shorter sequences of mat work. In particular, the twisting kriya section is comprised of these big, sweeping movements, where you twist your torso and circle your arms around your body.

Which is not to say this isn’t a great DVD. It’s gorgeously choreographed and filmed at White Sands National Park, a landscape so beautiful it doesn’t seem real. Plus, you really work up a sweat (that could have just been me, though!). If I get brave, I might try out some of the other sequences.


Yoga Trance Dance

I got a copy of Shiva Rea’s Yoga Trance Dance from Netflix today, which I have been wanting to try out. I’ve been feeling a little blah and I thought some free-form movement might be fun. Have you seen Rea’s Burning Man TEDtalk on the value of movement to our well-being? It’s fun–dancing babies, world music, and hippies swaying.

Things just out of our grasp

I love supine twists. I feel like I’ve blogged about that before, but I do. I know that some people say twists (and hip openers) can be uncomfortable and even emotionally challenging for them, but I find them oddly relaxing. I was doing the “lunar” series of poses from Shiva Rea’s Lunar Flow Yoga last night, which features a series of supine twists. Rea gives this lovely little instruction–it’s really a small thing–to oscillate your neck from side to side as you settle into the pose, before you turn your head in the opposite direction of the “twisting” movement. It helps you relax and let go of any tension you might have in your neck and shoulders as you stretched your legs. A small thing, but important.

What pose do I wish I loved? Bow pose (Dhanurasana). This one is tough for me. I don’t have the flexibility in my legs and back to quite reach the full pose. It’s just out of my grasp. Isn’t that an interesting metaphor? To say something is just out of your grasp implies that you’ve reached for it, but it is tantalizingly too far away. I was browsing Diane Ackerman’s fabulous book, A Natural History of the Senses, which is made up of small, beautiful essays, organized by the five senses–smell, taste, touch, vision, and hearing. Here she is in in the short essay called ‘Speaking of Touch,’ which reminds me of  that feeling of stretching backwards, unable to reach:

We call our emotions feelings, and we care most deeply when something “touches” us. Problems can be thorny, ticklish, sticky, or need to be handled with kid gloves…Music teachers often chide students for having “no sense of touch,” by which they mean an indefinable delicacy of execution. In fencing, saying touché means you have been touched by the foil and are conceding to your opponent, although, of course, we also say it when we think we have been foiled because someone’s argumentative point is well made…What seems real we call “tangible,” as if it were a fruit whose rind we could feel.” 

Beautiful, yes?

Have resolutions?

I wrote a column over at the Daily Muse about New Year’s Resolutions and happiness readings. If you’re interested in the neuroscience of change, the Rebecca Skloot article is fantastic. I loved her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about the real-life African American woman whose genetic material was used (without her knowledge or consent!) to create HeLa cells, which are grown and used in labs all over the world. Major tearjerker of a book. I think I sobbed through half of it–and we’re talking ugly crying here–so, I would recommend reading it with tissues and such.

Currently, I’m almost finished with Gretchen Rubin’s Happier At Home, her follow-up to The Happiness Project. Rubin is a little more Type-A than I am (she’s a big organizer and a self-proclaimed “abstainer” from sweets), but I like the way she gives you concrete strategies for adding happiness to your life, like:


  • Having weekly fun adventures with her daughter. They are very Julia Cameron-style creativity adventures, actually, to museums and other places.
  •  Trying to be as kind to your family as you would be to strangers. Not  venting, nagging, etc.
  • “Underreacting” to stressful events, so your anxiety level doesn’t skyrocket.

All of them are very useful, I think. I’d also like to read the other happiness book I recommended in my column, The Myths of Happiness.

This week in yoga: Shiva Rea’s Lunar Flow DVD. I find the prana sequence so relaxing.

News: New column over at the Daily Muse!

  • I am taking over Molly Donovan’s weekly column at the Daily Muse. It’s called “What to Read on the Subway This Week.” Check out my first week of suggestions here.
  • I’m so stretched out from yoga last night. Pigeon pose totally kicked my {always-tight} right hip around, especially since I’ve been avoiding that pose lately. Gotta keep at it.
  • I’ve been painting a lot lately and was accepted into a local art show. I’m trying to decide whether or not to say yes. In the words of Brene Brown, this is one of my vulnerability moments. Manning a booth in front of the public is a scary proposition. Here is one of my new paintings. If I get brave, I’ll probably try to sell this one:


21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics & Practice

I received my copy of 21st Century Yoga in the mail this week. Edited by Rosanne Harvey of the blog, It’s All Yoga, Baby, and academic writer/professor Carol Horton, I found it first via Melanie Klein’s essay on yoga & body image at AdiosBarbie. Here’s Horton in the introduction, talking about their approach to the essays:

“Asking big questions while remaining open to a variety of answers supports creative thought and exchange by holding space for wondering, exploring, and not knowing.”

Looking forward to reading more! You can discover more about the book here. 

Exciting Things in my Mailbox & an Update

Last week, I bought Christina Sell’s new book My Body is a Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness and Shiva Rea’s Daily Energy Yoga DVD, two works I’m really excited to explore.

However, I’ve been a bit preoccupied of late with non-blog writing.

I’m graduating from an MFA program this fall and finishing/defending my thesis soon. Which is exciting and scary and interesting all at once.

So, I apologize for the slowdown in postings and promise that I’ll get back up to speed soon here. There are some new posts of mine over at the Polycultural.

In the meantime, smile at Shiny Yoga’s Monday Manifesto and rent Fully Awake if you can:

Fun resources for yogis and yoginis

I wrote last week about how my home-based practice has been shaped by the availability of DVDs and home instruction. This week, I’d like to share some web resources for anyone who might want to learn about yoga.

There are lots of interesting resources available out there for you. Yoga Journal has lots of information for beginners via their website. There is a great yoga community on Twitter; this week, I participated in @omchat’s monthly sangha discussion session for yoga practitioners.

This week, I’ve been trying a new thing: a 28-day Blissology Challenge through Eoin Finn’s website. It involves pledging to integrate yoga, meditation, nature awareness and mindful eating into your daily life. There are great video segments and resources available, too. I’m finding that it’s easier for me to incorporate yoga and meditation, even in small amounts, than spending time outdoors. Mindful eating is probably the most difficult! Too, too easy, to eat junk food because I don’t plan ahead  and frankly, have a weakness for pasta and popcorn. This is something I’m trying to work on. I’ve also given up meat, except for shellfish, as part of a gradual move towards a plant-based diet. It’s easier than it sounds, as I’ve never liked beef, and only eat chicken sparingly. I’m thinking of it as a slow process. Getting more in touch with nature is a goal, too.

Other yoga sites that I read regularly:

I’d also encourage people to explore YouTube interviews with yoga teachers, interact with other yogis and yoginis on Twitter and utilize their local library resources–DVDs, books, CDs and audiobooks–as high-quality information and instruction may be available for you. I’d particularly like to note Shiva Rea’s master’s thesis from UCLA as an interesting mediation on yoga’s potential for mind-body connection, as well as this podcast  interview, part of Sounds True podcast series. Another fun thing: Do Nothing For Two Minutes.