It takes a lot of courage to be in a body. For my blog today, I'm sharing writer, yoga teacher and mind, body & soul coach Allison Richard's experience of her first Qoya class. I know in my own practice, it's amazing how the simplest little thing that I do or don't do in my body can reveal a life-changing metaphor if I'm willing to integrate it. Read her story below, and I invite you to join me for a class in New York this Saturday or in Woodstock in October for our annual pay-what-you-can retreat.
I was introduced to Qoya at a burlesque workshop I attended to heal my relationship with my sexuality and sensuality, and because I am an avid lover of anything that allows me to taunt and tease in life. I was shocked when I realized, during my first Qoya dance, how much I mistrusted my own body and even more shocked to feel how beautiful and calming it felt to move my body slowly and gently. WAYYYY slower and gentler than my NYC lifestyle ever allows me to move.
When I found out Rochelle was hosting a workshop called "Trust Yourself More than Ever Before," I knew the Universe was pointing me in a pivotal direction of my physical and emotional healing.
We opened the workshop by picking a card and lighting a candle to connect all our collective intentions for being there. I smiled when I got the "art of receiving." The card was perfect because the workshop had been a gift to me. On a deeper level, I've always been a giver, to the point of creating my own physical injuries by taking care of others better than I take care of myself (don't we all!).
I've had an undiagnosed injury to my sacrum (prime second chakra territory) for over 5 years, and despite looking like the perfect picture of health as a yoga instructor, I have been in constant pain, often feeling completely out of alignment and uncomfortable in my own skin.
As we danced our slow warm-up circles, I felt body parts crack and shift in ways that scared me and tensed every cell, so I took Rochelle's advice and did less. Despite my unrealistic desire to want to bust out some "So You Think You Can Dance" amazingness with my body, I created smaller and slower movements, and took my ego out of it until I felt less afraid and could relax.
We partnered up for a Shadow Dance, and were told to dance the feeling of not trusting ourselves while our partner watched and held space for us. Jesus. There are no end to the emotions that go along with that for me.
I closed my eyes, because it's super awkward to feel like you can't dance and know someone is watching you dance out a vulnerable topic. I started slowly swaying and immediately covered my eyes with my hands, because my first emotion was shame. As I continued dancing, I wrapped my arms around myself as a form of protection. I kept moving, and my dancing became more aggressive as anger rose. I hated
the fact that I didn't trust myself, because deep down, I actually know I'm pretty amazing.
My movements became bigger as I danced out the shame, protection, and anger. Towards the end, Rochelle called out to "dance as though you trust yourself like never before." I immediately opened my arms wide and began jumping and twirling in circles. I felt my skirt twirl with me and my hair fly around my head in a moment of rarely experienced freedom that started in my mind and was able to be expressed in my body.
As the song ended, I opened my eyes and felt a sense of balance in my hips and an absence of pain... and dare I say it, a sense of ease in my body.
After doing a vigorous choreographed dance to "Proud Mary", an amazingly empowering song but also the longest song in history, my body had officially moved more than it had in years. We were given a long strand of red yarn to create individual labyrinths, and took our time moving into the center in whatever way felt natural. I really struggled not to look at everyone else and see what they were doing, but focus on myself. Once in the center, we put our heads down to listen to what our bodies needed us to know. The only thing my body wanted me to do? Breathe.
I took breath after breath, as relaxed as I could. I felt some of the tension and tightness in my back begin to soften. I often claim I don't like rules and restrictions, but I struggled to not worry if I was taking too long and found myself lifting my head to peek.
We finished with one final free dance. I tried to close my eyes and be with myself so that I could feel what I needed, but my eyes kept flying open and drifting towards one woman who was standing completely still amongst a see of flowing, gyrating and twirling bodies. I asked myself why I was so drawn towards her, and soon heard the answer: I was jealous.
I was jealous that she had the balls to stand still because that’s what I was craving. In my mind, we were “supposed to be” dancing, but my body was tired and all it wanted to do was lay down.
I began to slow my movements a little bit. And then a little bit more. And then a little more still until I was only gently, slightly swaying.
After spending years feeling like most movements cause me pain, I had unconsciously learned that movement was something I needed to brace myself for and push though. As I stood there swaying, I was reminded of Rochelle’s instructions during one of our first dances that blew my mind: let your movement be as restorative as rest.
My body isn’t fighting me.
My body is trying to support and help me.
All is well.
Join us in New York City on August 22nd or in Woodstock this October for our pay-what-you-can retreat.