The whole experience began with a surprisingly delightful email from Teresa Herrera — known to most people as an international actress and model but in the small, burgeoning yoga community of Manila, she is better known as the yogini who got involved in Global Mala as well as being responsible for bringing yoga trance dance into the metro.
Teresa left a comment on my blog (she was just googling studios in Manila when she chanced on it) and was offering a complimentary pass to her yoga trance dance class. My thought bubble: Wow, it’s Teresa herself inviting me!
You see, I came across her last year when there was a Global Mala project in Manila. I was all set to go but due to certain personal circumstances, could not make it at the last minute. The next time I heard of her was in Pulse Yoga’s flyer for a yoga trance dance. Again, I could not make it but yogini friend Crissy did. And when Crissy found out I was being offered a free class, she all but told me: Go, Go, Go!!!
So last night, I found myself at Pulse Yoga, eagerly awaiting my first meet-up with Teresa. I was excited not only about meeting her but was looking forward to an experience I had long been wanting to have. My background as an accountant (and now as a consultant) puts me in a professional mode almost always. Most hours of my work days find me having to be formal, composed, logical, firm, assertive. But there has always been that creative, child-like part of me that was not as developed as the professional side but still cried out to be released. That was the side of me that was released during my years of ballet. That was the side that was released when I auditioned for, and became part of, the cast of my school’s musical production in the States. Tonight, that was the side I wanted to see — I wanted to be a free spirit for an evening.
It was also a full moon (trance dances are done during the new and full moon phases). Last night was auspiciously also the birthday of Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois , fondly called Guruji, who was born on the full moon of July 1915 (Guru Purnima).
We had a few minutes prior to the class to chat a bit and take some pictures.
I had wanted to videotape parts of the trance dance class but Teresa was insistent that I experience it personally in its entirety without the distraction of videotaping so I agreed.
AND I ABSOLUTELY HAVE NO REGRETS THAT I DID SO!
We entered the shala which was dark except for a multitude of lit candles on the floor. Our mats were arranged so that we all formed a circle.
The class started very slowly. We lay on our backs, one hand on our belly, the other on our heart. This was the moment when we tuned in to our own heartbeat, our own personal rhythm.
Teresa then made us get on all fours, our eyes closed so we could tune out everyone else and just listen to our own bodies. We went through cat/cow poses very slowly, heart opening poses, upward/downward dogs, cobra and staff pose as well. The difference was that she encouraged us not to stop moving. Always, our bodies had to move to the rhythm we drew from our selves.
As we progressed, the percussion music grew faster and faster. Unlike other yoga classes where my hair was always pulled back into a bun, I decided that for this class, I would wear my hair loose and free. Teresa had done the same thing (she had worn her hair in a ponytail but now her hair hung loosely around her shoulders). I think it was a symbol of the total freedom that we were putting into the dance.
There were times when we moved like water; at other times, we were like the wind. I had my eyes closed most of the time and I just felt myself releasing into the moment. Part of me was feeling the increasing tempo of the music and automatically, my body moved along with it.
We moved around the room exploring the space with our bodies and limbs. No one paid any attention to the others. We just moved as we felt like it, round and round and round. The freedom of dancing (visions of my younger days in ballet) came rushing back and I just allowed myself to sway this way and that, left and right, arms swaying wherever it took me, head and body moving along in complete abandon to the moment. It was a wonderful, LIBERATING experience. I might add that it was totally, awesomely SENSUAL!!!
The crescendo/climax was aptly called “chaos” by Teresa. This was where we released all pent-up negative energy, letting go of things that held us back. We worked ourselves up into a frenzy of dance, arms flailing, legs kicking higher and higher up, bending down to pound the floor in a rhythmic, fast-paced manner. Total, complete release!
We ended in Savasana, followed by a moment of thanksgiving to all our past teachers (this was a night of thanking teachers including Guruji). At one point in our dancing, Teresa asked us “What is the dance of your life? Have you been dancing it? What has been stopping you all this time?”
It only took a moment for me to think about this. And I knew what I was dancing for this night. I was dancing for self-discovery. And I am inspired by Teresa because when I told her I wanted to be a free spirit, she immediately told me: “You ARE a free spirit!”. Thank you so much, Teresa, for giving me this wonderful moment and sharing your energy. No doubt about it, I look forward to taking another class with you.
Teresa gives us some insight into trance dance in this video clip we shot before class: