Last weekend I attended my first Yoga4Tango class. Yoga for Tango - What's that? I thought. Balancing acts and Boleos? I had no idea what to expect, but what I came away with from the class I can only describe as an inspiring, and sweaty yet refreshing experience. I have no experience in Yoga at all, and I have only been dancing Tango casually for about two years. To say I was apprehensive was an understatement.
The beginning of the class was spent listening to the instructor as he put the classes into context. I liked what I was hearing. He explained a little bit about the principles and theories he would be using to merge elements of Yoga practice with our understanding of Tango, to enrich our dancing experience. I found it particularly interesting to hear him talk about the mind-body connection, with a focus on grounding, and filtering out "noise".
Living in the city, with stressful jobs and family lives, "noise" is something that becomes a part of our experience of life. Most of us don't even notice it until we get a headache! He explained that the working mind always wants to go backwards and forwards, but that it is important to just be here, and present, observing the body and the space around us. I immediately related to it, because this is what we all want to achieve when dancing Tango. Perhaps some of us even dance Tango to escape all of the city noise?
The session was held in a bright and airy gym room with mirrors along the front wall, which was a bit disconcerting at first, I was in the front row. There were between twenty and thirty of us in the class, but there was ample space and everyone was provided with their own mat and yoga accessories. People brought their own bottles of water, and some even had hand towels, which was something I hadn't thought of.
I was worried that I wouldn't be up to the Yoga standard of some of the others (especially those that came prepared with towels - they obviously knew what we were in for!) The course description did state that it would suit anyone who does Tango, and that modifications would be given for all of the Yoga poses in the sequences. So I tried not to worry, and instead relax and focus on what was happening.
We were introduced to different methods of breathing, and allowing breath to travel through different parts of the body consciously, which I found to be very relaxing. It is something I have never even thought about before. Breathing just happens, it's not something anyone thinks about unless they are trained to. After practicing the simple technique of inhaling and moving my breath up to my lower stomach, pausing, then further to my upper stomach, pausing, and then right up to the top of my chest and pausing again before letting it flow all the way back down through my body, I found I was able to focus entirely on my body and the space around me. It was fun too, and gave me a bit of a head rush when i sat up. It made me more aware of the different sections of my body that I use to twist and dissociate when I am dancing.
The exercises were continuously related to the experience of dancing Tango throughout the class. For example, did you know that when you dance and you become out of breathe it is because your mind/body connection is in conflict? You need to breathe continuously to stay grounded. It makes sense. Personally I felt that being conscious of my own breathing made me feel more in control and aware of what my body was doing, I imagine that when applying that to the dance floor, a dancer is likely to have a much richer experience and be more aware of how their body and their partner's body communicate; and also how they become part of the moving dance floor, which is really like a whole flowing, living and breathing organism.
The rest of the lesson picked up in pace and we were taught a series of poses for different sequences, along with modifications. There was no pressure on anyone to keep up or push themselves over their own limits. The instructor was very clear and supportive about the fact that people's bodies work in different ways. For example, I felt better when he reassured everyone that it was absolutely fine to have bent knees for certain stretches, which I personally found to be an essential modification because my body isn't as flexible as I'd like it to be! Also at the beginning of the class he demonstrated two 'resting' poses that he encouraged us to use if we were feeling like we needed to drop out and rest our bodies. I observed a number of people using these poses throughout the session, which was good to see.
I think what I found most surprising and exciting about the class was the fact that I came away feeling so wonderfully at peace in my mind, and yet my body had undergone an extremely thorough workout. It was a very satisfactory and invigorating feeling. The kind of glow you get after enjoying an amazing Tanda!
Despite the intense workout, which was the pace I chose for myself - each person will have had a different experience depending on what they felt was right for them - I felt charged with such positive energy and adrenaline, that after the class I was inspired to walk home, which would normally have taken a good half hour bus ride. Yoga4Tango must be good for me, I thought, seeing as I never walk anywhere if there is a bus that will take me! I suppose this goes to show that I took something valuable away from the class, and the good vibes and energy are what will be bringing me back again next week. Thank you to Winston for an inspiring new experience, see you again on Sunday!