Elemental Dance

ahhh. I just finished up another summer of outdoor yoga classes. Although this summer we had the first rain day in three years and there was a morning at the end of July that we thought we might freeze…it was a good summer, truly a gift. Beautiful sunrises that got earlier, then later, until last week when we started in the dark fog of our little lakeside beach. By the time we finished our final Surya Namaskara there was light and birdsong. 

I love living here. I grew up in Northern Minnesota and moved to Houston, Texas in 9th grade (so my father could continue to provide food for our family), which is a pretty big move in many ways. However, both places landed me close to a large body of water. In my late twenties, while my husband went through graduate school, I experienced being landlocked for the first time in my life. Nashville has a lot to offer, even a river, but it doesn’t have a Great Lake or the Gulf of Mexico. I found myself missing the presence of water terribly.

What is it about being by water…big water…powerful water…that speaks to me? I learned respect on the shores of Lake Superior. In Galveston, I learned freedom (I took a lot of beach “sick days” in high school). Here, with the Grand River, Spring Lake, and Lake Michigan surrounding me, I am learning connection. These bodies of water, past and present, speak to me and flow through me in ways I find mesmerizing and intriguing. 

Sun Salutations teach you how to flow from one yoga posture to another. Each pose is like a great body of water: powerful, with much to teach the practitioner. Respect goes to the Warrior; freedom to Down Dog. These basic postures take us from foggy darkness to great light. Flowing through them is like changing from river to lake to ocean. We maintain the same fleshy substance but create a completely different identity and sense of self. A Vinyasa practice teaches connection and dance. 

I am born of an earth sign (Taurus), so water has always attracted me, but it also can frighten and challenge me. Maybe because I grew up on such a deadly shore, or maybe because I like the stability of earth beneath me. Water can move so swiftly and deeply. I’m more of an admirer of water and a lover of swimming gently in calm water. I need water like the earth needs rain. Likewise I love to hold a yoga posture and absorb all it has to teach me. I find a flowing practice like Vinyasa challenging, but that isn’t a bad thing. I have to learn to ride the waves of change with a sense of mastery–which means I need to modify and not let my ego overrun my abilities. There is more to connection than flowing from pose to pose; I also need to connect mind to body in a loving embrace 

The elements in nature have so much to teach us about ourselves. Step outdoors–do a bit of activity in the elements. It doesn’t have to be yoga. Do what you love. Let nature speak to you. Listen. Connect. Dance and be free. In yoga we don’t “exercise,” we “practice.” What do we practice? Being present. Why do we call it “present?” Because it is all a gift, including the challenges.