by Megha Nancy Buttenheim
This is the first of a three-part series on practicing authenticity in daily life. Today’s post explores authenticity through the chakra practice of Let Your Yoga Dance. Part 2 looks at authenticity through the lens of VIA character strengths. Part 3 brings inSPIRED Let Your Yoga Dance into the mix.
What Is Authenticity?
For me, authenticity is synonymous with being congruent, genuine, real, walking my talk—dancing my walk. For me, authenticity also means being as creative as humanly possible. I’m definitely my most real and genuine when my creative juices are flowing; in my world, that can only happen when I am in a special kind of environment—and/or in the water. I have some of my best ideas, designs, choreography, and insights in the bathtub, the ocean, the pool, or a lake. (Maybe that’s due to my July Cancer-the-Crab nature.)
Yogic philosophy teaches that we mistakenly assume that we’re merely a mind and a body. We stubborn humans believe in our superficial labels: Caucasian, extrovert, feminist, introvert, dancer, New England liberal. The Bhagavad Gita describes the atma as the soul or true Self, which goes deeper than these personality traits, beyond mind and body. Atma refers to the eternal consciousness (spirit or soul) within each of us. I know that my authentic core is infinite, eternal, and whole—it’s just not always easy to remember that.
Let Your Yoga Dance
I like to use movement techniques to help me stay authentic. My favorite of all body practices is Let Your Yoga Dance. It helps me stay real and congruent. Why? Because not only do I get to dance through all the chakras (the body’s energy centers), but I also get to practice the yamas and niyamas (the yogic codes of conduct), and metta (lovingkindness meditation). These elements are woven within this practice. As I evolved and grew Let Your Yoga Dance into what it is today, I made sure to include these elements in order to be constantly reminded of authentic kindness.
I feel most truly myself when I am in flow, a word coined by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He teaches that, when people are in flow, they are completely absorbed in a creative activity. They feel strong, empowered, free, un-self-conscious. That’s what happens to me when I am letting my yoga dance: All my centers of energy are fired up. And, with that firing of the chakras, I am allowed to be my most real, genuine, authentic self.
I have worked, studied, explored, and danced with the chakras since 1986; they’re a great road map for consciousness, a way for me and others to dance our path to congruent living. I am a “chakradorer.” So much of my worldview and steps in life revolve around these seven centers.
Using the Chakras to Get Grounded
Chakra 1 is the center where we plant our feet on Mother Earth, standing our ground: Mountain Pose. I call this the Key Authenticity Pose: feet grounded, body strong, arms reaching up to the sky. (For more on power poses, check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, which now has been viewed by more than 30 million people, and her book, Presence.)
If I need to screw up my courage, Chakra 3, in the solar plexus, is my go-to energy center. To build my courage, I sometimes stand in Warrior Pose and then start to dance my Warrior, preferably with some drumming in the background, or any music that fires up my brain. If I am in a challenging meeting and I’m getting irritated, then I have to rely on yoga breathing and positive, affirming thoughts, like, “I can do this” or “I have what it takes” or “When in doubt, Contemplate Warriorship!”
Sometimes I resort to singing internally. If the challenge gets too tough (particularly in a meeting), I will excuse myself, pretending I have to use the bathroom. I use those few minutes to fire up Chakra 5, the throat center.
The best song I know to keep up my Authentic Truth when I’m under duress is one of Madonna’s: “Like It or Not.” I introduce it to all my classes, including my Parkinson’s, elders, and Special Populations classes. The chorus goes like this:
This is who I am
You can like it or not
You can love me or leave me
Cause I’m never gonna stop
When I remember to take care of myself that way, then I can return to that difficult encounter, and am more ready to speak my truth clearly and directly, having taken care of my chakras. Let Your Yoga Dance is my consistent training ground for authenticity.
Inspiration for Authenticity
There are many articles and books on the topic of authenticity, including Karissa Thatcher’s hot-off-the-press Authentic Leadership and Brian Little’s Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. I also love to use poetry to help me remain authentic and congruent. Poets like Mary Oliver, Shakespeare, Hafiz, David Whyte, and Rumi sizzle for me. I gather quotes from around the world, and use scripture to ground me in being and teaching from the deepest part of whom I am. Quotes and poems are an integral part of my quest for authenticity. When I look up and see a strong quote on my wall, I am uplifted, inspired, graced. Here are a few of my favorite words on authenticity.
A great door opens every time we walk our own way. Not the way of the world, not the way of the other, but the way that is encoded in the bones of our being. It is not easy to open the great door in an inauthentic world, but open it we must. On the other side of the door, our real life awaits. There are many great doors to come as we shed our cloaks of falsity and embrace our deepest truths. Walk with your head high and your heart open. The universe responds to authentic transformation. Nothing false will do. Out with the old, in with the true …
You cannot think yourself into right living.
You live yourself into right thinking.
—Gloria Steinem, quoting from Native American elders in her book My Life on the Road
Our lives begin to end
The day we become silent about things that matter.
—Martin Luther King
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you truly are.
Megha’s new book Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance: Embodying Positive Psychology, will be released next week. The book takes WBI’s SPIRE methodology into the body to explore an embodied roadmap to consciousness.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC, and author of Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology. A lifelong singer, dancer, and actor, she is a long-time teacher trainer at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. She has led her own signature training, Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training, since 1997, in different parts of the world. Megha is the director of movement and meditation at the Wholebeing Institute, teaching in the Certificate in Positive Psychology program. Megha’s passion is to bring the dance of yoga to everyone, including special populations who feel marginalized due to age, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, and other health conditions. To that end, Megha directs Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training for Special Populations.. letyouryogadance.com