After not having set foot on a West Coast Swing dance floor for about 3 months, this past weekend I attended Boston Dance Challenge. I started doing this dance 10 years ago because I had a lot of spare time after getting my Master’s degree, and I loved how it made me feel physically and emotionally. Many studies have shown that dancing is good for your health, but I can also attribute dancing to making me more social and outgoing; like yoga, I believe it has played a large part in changing the deepest “me”.
Part of the reason I haven’t been dancing lately has been because I had felt like it was always a choice to go dance or pursue my yogic practices. There seemed to be too many things at odds with one another in each of these passions. For Ayurveda and yoga, I get up early, I eat light and clean, I practice mindfulness and compassion. For dancing, I stay up until Ayurveda would have me wake, food and alcoholic drinks are a prevalent and constant temptation, not to mention all the competition, ego, judgement, and cliques that are the norm.
But since yoga is really about a way of living in the world (99% of which happens off the mat), I decided to use this weekend as a test: could I be a yogi while participating in the hobby I used to enjoy so much? Here’s some highlights of how it went.
- 8:30 pm: I arrive at the hotel, pleased as punch that I have two, like-minded and considerate roommates with whom to share the weekend. Space in the room is respectfully shared from the moment I arrive. I feel content, and set an intention to have fun this weekend.
- 9:30 pm: While watching the first competition, I catch myself judging other dancers, trying to select who’s in first, second, or third place, and making comments to nearby friends / observers about outfits and dancing (good and not so good). I vow to just sit and enjoy watching others express themselves while doing something that gives them pleasure.
- 10 pm: I remember how to spot while social dancing (there’s no spinning in yoga!). My former dance partner (a vegan neuro-muscular massage therapist who’s tickled at my yogic transformation) asks me, “are you the same person?” I smile confidently as I reply, “No, I’m not.” Friends encourage me to compete tomorrow, and I know I need to make a decision by the morning.
- 11 pm: Having gotten up at 5am, I feel jet-lagged. I decide I’ve had a long day, and turn in. (Something unheard of at a dance event.)
- 6:15 am: After initially waking at 4 am, I’m fine with this. I get up and do some yoga, meditate, and decide to compete.
- 9 am: I start to second guess my decision to compete, thinking it won’t be worth the hit to my self esteem. I observe this indecisiveness as a pattern as of late, realize it’s not good for me, and choose to just own the decision I made instead of doubting it. I feel better.
- 12 pm: I am proud of myself for maintaining phase 3 of my Buddha cleanse, eating the lunch I brought with me.
- 1 pm: I have the pleasure of attending a workshop with Arjay Centeno & Jennifer DeLuca, who surprise and inspire me by talking all about how important the breath is while dancing because it calms the body and enables communication with your partner. They have us breathe deeply in, pause slightly at the top, and exhale through our movements. I’m so excited and grateful I almost can’t contain myself.
- 3:15 pm: I spend the next several hours trying to find my full yogic breath while social dancing in between comps. Initially it’s distracting, and I can’t do that and keep my steps. But after a short time, I start to find it to be seriously grounding. Just what I need. I do feel as though my breath can breathe life into my dance!
- 4:30 pm: My roommate and I rush to get ready for comps. We’d been chatting about this amazing rhythmic yoga flow and completely lost track of time. I have 3 really fun dances, where I breathe and feel comfortable in my body while on the competition floor. (Competing without freaking out has been an issue for me for as long as I’ve been doing these events.)
- 5 pm: Some friends get called back for Novice semis. I quickly run to the restroom so I can be back in time to watch them dance. When I emerge from the stall, I see a wall of urinals and a close friend says, “Jen, you in the right place?” I panic and run out, amazed at how un-mindful I’d been. I continue this pattern by nearly sitting on a guy’s lap when I get back into the ballroom because he’d taken my chair. My friends think all this is hysterical.
- 6:15 pm: A pro tells me and a friend / fellow competitor that we looked good on the floor. I start to have hopes of making finals.
- 7 pm: I realize once 5 of us arrive at the Green Land Cafe for dinner that I’ve screwed up the reservation and we don’t have one. My friends are so kind (reminding me also of my earlier restroom mishap) and the restaurant is accommodating. I breathe with the discomfort of not being perfect, and try to accept that that’s really OK. My friends love me anyway.
- 8 pm: I find out I’m only one of three other girls cut completely from the finals list. Part of me says, “of course, you haven’t danced in 3 months, what do you expect?” Another part is sad and disappointed. Yet another is thrilled for my roommate, who did make the cut. Behind it all, my true Self is amazed I’m actually remembering my yoga training and starting to allow myself to feel each layer of my emotions.
- 9 pm: I’m really tired. One of my roommates talks me out of breaking my Buddha cleanse with a coffee. I decide to do Viparita Karani instead, but never end up actually doing it.
- 9:30 – 11 pm: I do battle with my “itty bitty shitty committee”. My roommate tells me to dance with this advanced guy–I do, and while it was fine, I still feel like it was a “pity dance”. When she wants to teach yoga with me at dance events, I wonder why. I want to eat something I shouldn’t. I doubt my ability to be a good dancer, a good yoga teacher, to maintain a healthy body. I see a woman who I’ve had issues with in the past and this riles me up. I reluctantly dance with the beginner who keeps asking me, and wonder why on earth he’s so persistent. Then suddenly I remember my intention for the weekend: FUN!
- 11 pm: I’m exhausted again, but vow not to cave in and go to bed. Who knows when I’ll be out dancing again, and darn it, I’m going to have fun!
- 11:30 pm: I complain to a friend about the dude who’s selling dance shoes, because he’s been saying wacky things to me about buying something every time I pass his tables. Soon after I feel like maybe I could be more light-hearted about it.
- 12:30 am: I have good dances with old friends and new partners. I get a second wind. I focus on having a good time. I marvel at how applicable my Kripalu yoga training is: emotions really are just waves one has to ride; the amount of time between them just varies, as does their magnitude.
- 2:30 am: I kindly explain to the beginner who has been asking me to dance repeatedly that I’m really flattered but there are a lot of people I haven’t seen in awhile who I’d like to dance with. He takes it well, and I don’t feel like I’ve been a dance snob.
- 3:30 am: I’m tickled when a pro I like starts running around the social floor with a child-like grin on his face, cutting in on random couples and stealing followers for a few passes. They must be tickled too!
- 4 am: I haven’t been on the floor in about 45 minutes, and so I decide to call it a night. A respectable time for a dance event. I feel proud of myself.
- 9 am: I wake after having had less than 5 hours of sleep, which I know is less than what my body needs. I see one of my roommates on her yoga mat, and get down on the floor myself. I hear her Ujjayi breathing and start my own short flow, listening to what my body needs me to pay attention to after all that dancing. I smile when I glance up and see we are in similar postures I feel very connected to her.
- 10 am: Rather than getting anxious about having to leave the hotel room by the 11 am checkout time, the three of us work together perfectly to all get showers and pack up in time. I’m feeling even more grateful that these lovely people are in my life.
- 11 am: After taking half my suitcase outside, I’m too enamored by the beautiful sunny day to spend it sitting or dancing in the ballroom. After checking with my roommate that she’d be OK with me missing her dance this afternoon, I say some other goodbyes. One couple tells me I should have taught a morning yoga class, and that they were not willing to go to the gym but would have done yoga; I agree and hope to offer something next year.
- 3:30 pm: I write this blog, and feel like yes, I could do another dance event, AND balance it with keeping true to my yoga practices. In fact, as with anything else in life, YOGA JUST HELPS.
- 7 pm: I find out my roommate placed 5th, and a dear friend came in 1st place. I text them both back with a big smile on my face, sending them my love as part of celebrating their success.