by Mina Simhai
I remember my first time. My palms were sweating, and I was decidedly uncomfortable looking into the eyes of all the strangers around me, much less touching them. I chose to trust the process. Even though I felt silly, I followed Megha Nancy Buttenheim in my first Let Your Yoga Dance® class. Releasing skepticism and judgment, I received the gifts of grace, kindness and connection. I traded up. I was moved to tears. Some kind of alchemy happened: Resistance, apprehension, and cynicism transformed into healing, vibrancy, and deeper self-knowledge. By then, my whole body was sweating, not just my palms. I felt like the Grinch at the end of the book: My heart grew three sizes that day. I was left wondering, “What the heck just happened?”
Why is Let Your Yoga Dance so powerful?
Let Your Yoga Dance = Health x 4
Now, after reading Megha’s book, Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology, I have a better idea of what happened. No wonder I felt so darn good. I received body health, brain health (learning steps), heart help (through both cardio and connecting to others), and soul health, which Megha defines as “being connected to self, to other, to the great mystery of life and beyond.”
Megha offers readers a taste of all four kinds of health through the beautiful “Movement Takeaways” that accompany the book. Readers can turn to these 14 mini practices (two to three minutes each) to experience these health benefits daily, taste the sweetness of moving meditation, and expand their joy.
Dancing through SPIRE and the Koshas
SPIRE is WBI’s model of well-being, encompassing the Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Relational aspects of ourselves.
Spiritual: Megha taps into the spiritual element by incorporating dancing prayer and reverence for the earth and other beings into the practice.
Physical: We get sweaty and move!
Intellectual: It can be challenging to remember the steps and do them in time to the music.
Relational: We don’t just dance on our own or with a partner. Each class becomes a robust community in which we practice seeing and being seen within the group.
Emotional: Let Your Yoga Dance invokes our emotions when we dance with others, through the music selections, and through the subtle cues Megha uses to invite us to pay attention to what’s going on inside.
Yoga teaches that every human being has five sheaths of existence, called the koshas. In Expanding Joy, Megha shows us how the koshas correspond with SPIRE:
1. Physical body: corresponds with the P
2. Breath body: related to the S because it allows us to find peace and get centered when we face stress, doubt, or fear
3. Mind/emotional body: allows us to embrace emotions; corresponds to the E of SPIRE
4. Witness: increases awareness and builds our intelligence about ourselves; related to the I of SPIRE
5. Bliss body: about our relationship with ourselves; corresponds to the R in SPIRE, which is about our relationship with ourselves as well as with others.
Let Your Yoga Dance simultaneously guides us through the elements of SPIRE and the yogic koshas, the five layers of existence. We dance across the intersection of positive psychology and ancient yogic wisdom.
We Move Through the Chakras and Up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The chakras, according to yoga tradition, represent the seven energy centers of the body, flowing upward from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. In Expanding Joy, Megha shows us how her classes allow students to travel through the seven chakras and also traverse Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
When we Let Our Yoga Dance, we start by rooting through our feet and the lower chakras, then progressively move upwards towards the sahasrara chakra of wisdom, unity, and stillness at the crown of the head: Maslow’s self-actualization. Like a yoga class, a Let Your Yoga Dance class ends with Savasana, when the body is still and dancers find a deep rest that allows the practices to integrate and the yoga (translated as “union”) to happen.
We Are All Dancers
Through Megha’s work, I have witnessed the power of intention. While I was in class, my brain did not understand the sophistication behind the class structure that Megha reveals in Expanding Joy. But my body knew immediately. Megha writes that her classes are moving metta (lovingkindness), rooted in dancing prayer. When you dance in Megha’s classes, the body feels the teachings so deeply that Megha doesn’t need to tell you about them. She guides you to experience them instead.
Part of the power of Let Your Yoga Dance is its seeming simplicity. The steps aren’t complicated. You can do the class if you are fit, out of shape, or in a wheelchair. Anyone can do it. In Megha’s class, “we are all dancers,” she says. She doesn’t overwhelm her dancing students with Sanskrit words, yet she roots her teaching in the wisdom of yoga.
Megha is an artist. Just as an Olympian makes swimming look easy and effortless, inspiring us to hit the pool, she makes Let Your Yoga Dance fun, accessible, and even easy, and ignites the hearts of those brave enough to join her.
You have a chance to join her, too. Tune in for our next book club discussion, when Megha will be our special guest, fielding questions and discussing Expanding Joy.
Mark your calendar:
When: Monday, October 3, 7:30 pm ET
Conference Call Dial in: 323-476-3997
Conference ID: 218555#
Get International dial-in numbers at //yourconferenceline.com/local/.
Mina Simhai earned her Certificate in Positive Psychology from the Wholebeing Institute, and served as a teaching assistant for CiPP4. She is also a recovering lawyer, yoga teacher and mother. Her latest project is bringing the tools of positive psychology to lawyers and others in the DC area and across the country. Her top strengths are judgment, love of learning, curiosity, love, and appreciation of beauty. Mina is an avid reader and looks forward to launching the WBI Book Club with you.