In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
~ Gabrielle Roth
I’ve heard this quote over the years, worded slightly differently from various sources. However, the gist remains the same, for me: Might healing have something to do with getting back into the flow of unabashed self-expression? Might feelings of dis-ease have something to do with holding back who we are, for fear of what others might think about us? Maybe feeling really alive and whole has something to do with becoming more child-like, more open, more vulnerable; moving in our own unique way, speaking our truth, being brave enough to share our stories of who we are, throwing our arms up to the blue sky shouting, “Yes, this is ME!” and then basking in the golden silence. Have you done any of that lately?
Children are incredible teachers; amazing to watch. They are masters at having fun. Children move freely, spontaneously, in their bodies. They dance, they jump, they shimmy and shake; totally unconcerned with how they might look to anyone watching. Children hold back nothing about letting their voices through. They sing songs, they shout with exuberance and exclaim their wonder about the world, and they make it vocally clear how they feel about things. Not only do children dance and sing, but they are completely enchanted by all kinds of stories; ones they love to have read to them, fantastic stories they make up, stories of how they found the most beautiful leaf in the ditch, or the story of how a squirrel found a nut in the yard today.
Somewhere along the way in our lives, we’ve stopped doing this. Somewhere along the line, we were told that our dance looks silly, that our singing isn’t pretty, that our story doesn’t fit in with what other people are saying, that our ideas of fun are childish, rather than child-like. We throw water and sand onto our inner fires, squelch our uniqueness and our passion about life, and become serious “grownups” who rein in who we are to fit into the adult mold…and wonder why we might feel so stressed-out and dissonant.
After seriously studying hatha yoga (the movement-oriented yoga) for over 12years, I realized I had grown to love the territory of silence, but had stopped dancing, singing, and listening to stories. Interestingly, my life was feeling quite dispirited, despite my deep spiritual studies. Something small, yet huge, was missing; however I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Unbeknownst to me, it was bhakti yoga.
Bhakti Yoga is the devotional yoga of the heart. In the world of bhakti, we use our emotions and our longing for God as the channel for experiencing conscious union with The Divine. Bhakti yoga includes things such as poetry (like Rumi and Kabir), mantra, music, singing, chanting, mythological stories, dance, prayer, and devotion as the vehicle for the experience of divine connection. In response to the quote at the beginning of this article, bhakti was what I needed. And a lot of it!
The result of my newfound hatha/bhakti merger is a new practice that I have created called Bhakti Moves. Fueled by my love for bhakti yoga and inspired by the 5 Rhythms work of Gabrielle Roth, Bhakti Moves is a fusion of my most deepest passions: Freedom Style yoga, meditation, devotion, dance, music, rhythm and percussion, and expressing my exuberance for the awesomeness of this life.
Bhakti Moves is a deeply healing and cathartic way of practicing yoga, without the mat. It’s a practice of not holding back even one ounce of who you are. It looks like dance on the outside, but it’s an inner-work experience of reviving your soul, and having fun in the process.
In this practice, we move through five basic sequential sections of work: Waves, Patterns, Reconfiguration, Celebration, and Devotion. These sections of movement, music, and emotions take us right into the center of our hearts; right into the center of the experience of inseparable union with The Divine.
We start with slow, grounded, primal waves of breath and movement; getting in touch with the deep undercurrent of the ocean of creation, as it comes up through us and finds expression. Waves is all about experiencing ourselves as the slow, fluid morph of swirling energy; constantly moving change.
The waves of this primal energy find expression in the world as infinite configurations of specific and unique patterns. So, in this next section of work, Patterns, we let ourselves drop into percussive, rhythmic patterns, using our feet, our hands, our voice, our whole Self. We become comfortable working with repetitive movement and sound patterns and letting them change when they no longer serve us and need to change.
The third section, Reconfiguration, has become my favorite lately. Sometimes in our lives, the pattern shift is so dramatic that the intense energy of change can be overwhelming. Instead of resisting this energy of the unknown and never-before-seen newness, we embrace it by dancing it and letting it move through us. We completely let go of what we think we know and move with wild abandon, letting this beautiful energy of transformational change begin to free blockages and reconfigure ourselves, helping us find our new footing in the world.
Celebration is a direct result of reconfiguration. Joy abounds! In this section of work, we honor who we are, we honor the group dynamic, and give ourselves the freedom to be moved in a brand new way. Here we find our true dance, our real joy.
The result of all the work up to now is deep gratitude, which takes us straight into a profound space of Devotion; full body prayer and communion with The Divine. Gesture comes through, spontaneous mudras surface, and we find ourselves completely open and alive, in this beautiful space of Infinite Communion together. Then we bring it all back to center and all back to the silence, where we began.
Here’s to reclaiming the beauty of our dance, the truth of our song, the importance of our story, and setting into the sweet territory of silence together. Ommm….