This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to see Graham II, a modern dance company, perform at Artscape, Baltimore’s free arts festival. I picked up a gem. It was a quote in the program by Martha Graham, one of the most recognized pioneers of modern dance in the United States.
We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.
Yoga is not to be confused with performance, as it is not for the purpose of outward expression. Yoga is a vehicle for inward focus and realizing one’s true essence. After seeing Graham II perform, I was reminded that a true dancer or master artist of any kind has to embody principles of yoga to deeply enjoy the same piece over and over and relay a spontaneous performance each time. These principles are in essence to live fully and experience life in the moment, however repetitive, without notions of the last time one practiced or projections of future hopes, but just being present with what is, whatever comes up in the moment of life. It is truly beautiful to watch someone live the same movements anew; I experienced the same appreciation watching their performance as I feel when I see a yoga student have a new revelation after the hundreth time of practicing an asana.
While in yoga class there is no audience to remind us that this is a unique moment in time, each time we step onto the mat for yoga asana practice we are given a unique opportunity to experience anew a repetitive movement, to absorb a new lesson from our experience. There is an art to “going through the motions” with freshness, and this begins with our mental attitude toward the practice. The key is to keep an open heart and a humble mind, never to feel that you know something or to have preconceived notions and ideas, never to make banal and boring the magic of creation: be open. Be ready to learn, from everything, always, and then the poles of a “postive” and “negative” experience do not seem so far apart. A stiff day carries lessons as does a day when life feels fluid and seamless.
Wishing you all a wonderful week of patient, compassionate, committed, and humble practice – May we all learn openly from all that arises on the mat.