by Megha Nancy Buttenheim
Welcome to the continuation of this blog series, Finding Grace within Grief: Seven Healing Ways. In this series, I offer Positive Psychology and Let Your Yoga Dance tools to help those experiencing loss and dark times. If you are only now joining in, please return to the introduction.
Four months after Sarah Grace’s birth, I was given a CD for Christmas that contained a gorgeous rendition of an old hymn: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” It was exquisite. I listened, I danced, I sang. Over and over. I was enthralled. While dancing, I thought to myself, “This is a prayer! This is a dancing prayer, a Dance Prayer. I need to share this with all my students and trainees.”
From Sarah Grace’s death, Dance Prayers were born. They are an integral part of every class I teach. In my Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training, instructors are taught how to create and lead a Dance Prayer, as well as choreograph their own dancing yoga meditation. Dance Prayers are profoundly simple, and simply profound.
One of the most important Dance Prayers that emerged, thanks to Sarah Grace, has become my signature movement piece—actually, it’s her signature piece: the Grace Sculpture Garden of Hearts and Souls. This is a deeply moving dancing yoga meditation that offers healing on many levels, while building community, one heart and one soul at a time.
How does this happen? I ask the group to form partners; they are each instructed to choose whether they are in the role of a Heart or a Soul. All the Hearts then create a big, inner circle. The Souls form an outside circle around the hearts. With lovely, quiet music in the background, the Hearts go into the center and form a yoga sculpture. No touching. They hold their posture.
Now the Souls come in, and offer touch to at least one or two Hearts. Every Heart should be touched. It can be a touch of the hand, or toes, or shoulders—there’s lots of room for creativity. Everyone is now joined together. A community is formed.
Once the Hearts have all been touched, they are invited to move away from the center of the garden, leaving the Souls, untouched, behind. Now the Hearts return to any part of the garden, with the question: “Where am I needed? How can I serve?” The Hearts are invited to touch one, two, or three Souls as they hold their new yoga posture. Sometimes people experiment with tricky balancing poses; when they are finally touched and supported, they breathe a sigh of relief. As the Hearts touch the Souls, they are invited to imagine that they’re not only touching their new friend, but also that Soul’s ancestor—a mother, father, grandparent—all the way back to the beginning of time. Healing touch. A touch of Grace.
The Hearts and Souls move in and out of the Grace Garden, finding new poses, finding new friends to touch and support. In this way, both Hearts and Souls recognize that it is not more blessed to give than to receive; it is equally blessed to receive, which allows others to give.
I have directed the Grace Garden thousands of times, and am constantly amazed at the teary-eyed, grateful responses from participants. People need to feel connected. The Grace Garden is a prayer without words, a prayer of movement, a Dance Prayer.
Listening to favorite songs—be they secular, spiritual, Broadway, drumming, or classical—can deeply soothe an aching heart and mind. Put on music you love in your living room, move your body, and feel your breath. Create your own Grace Garden, filled with your Heart and your Soul.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is the founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® and a faculty member for Wholebeing Institute’s Certificate in Positive Psychology. <a