Today. Sitting on the patio. Watching the clouds unwind themselves into those little stylized curlicues I've seen in Tibetan iconography. Stretching, dispersing, always changing...
Aging typically follows a trajectory of contraction. Oh no - I don't do that anymore. A narrowing of options that leads, sooner rather than later, to something resembling a rigor mortis that pre-dates our final liberation.
This needs to be confronted.
Just before Christmas 2020, I took a leap into the unknown. With considerable fear and trepidation, I signed up to take online lessons in Indian Classical dance with a wonderfully gifted young performer and teacher in Kolkata.
My teacher's age - 26 - a reverse echo of my own age - 62.
Taking this Hanuman-sized leap has had unexpected results. As the new challenge of learning the idiom of Bharatanatyam under the inspired guidance of Supratim Talukder has taken hold, I have experienced so many changes in my life.
Yogasana became my sadhana when I was a young teen and discovered Swami Vishnudevanda'a Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga in my hometown library in the 70s. I teach as well as practice now, and I've observed that the newfound strength developed in my dance practice is creating new possibilities in my yogasana practice.
We always start and end our dance practice sessions by performing a Namaskaram. In it, we touch the earth reverentially, bringing her blessing to our eyes/consciousness, and then offer that blessing back to the earth. We then raise our prayer hands to acknowledge the love that holds us in being, lower our prayer hands to our third eye to acknowledge our teachers, and finally bring the prayer to rest on our heart, acknowledging our friends on the path.
I have started to use this beautiful Namaskaram before my Surya and Chandra Namaskarams in my asana practice. The hand gestures used to tell stories in Indian classical dance are also finding their way into my yoga practice. In Ardhachandrasana my upper hand takes the hasta mudra designating the Half Moon. In Navasana, my hands ripple into waves of flowing water, providing a counterpoint to the engagement of the core. As my more established sadhana of yogasana connects with my new sadhana of Bharatanatyam, new worlds are opening up.
Other changes in my life since undertaking this dance sadhana have been even more surprising.
I've started to climb trees! And dance outside under the sky in our backyard, and in the forests and fields where my husband and I go hiking. A reluctant traveler, I am determined to finally make the trip to India, the birthplace of both yogasana and Bharatanatyam. I hope to visit a dear friend who lives in Pune, and to finally meet my dance guruji in person in West Bengal.
I'm discovering that life does not have to narrow as we get older. Horizons beckon. We can say yes and take that leap into the unknown. We can change our trajectory. This knowledge is so empowering, so hopeful...
...so utterly transformative.
Om Namah Sivaya.