I have many teachers, but one of my favorites is an incredible yogi spirit named Victor at Laughing Lotus in Chelsea. He inhabits joy like few I know and is a continual inspiration to embrace life on and off my yoga mat. Victor’s classes usually involve rocking 80’s tunes, glitter, and total encouragement to hang upside down and sweat it out.
His one requirement in every class is to breathe, and I smile each time he reminds me. It’s the simplest of teachings, but the core of the practice. He recommended I check out a class called 5Rhythms. Considering our mutual love for dance, I planned to go. Even better, I was able to convince three girlfriends to accompany me on the adventure.
5Rhythms as a practice asks the question and meditates on, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit? The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body. Waves move in patterns, patterns move in rhythms. A human being is just that –energy, waves, rhythms, patterns, nothing more, nothing less, a dance. The 5Rhythms reconnect us to the wisdom of our bodies and unleash movement’s dynamic healing power.”
With this in our heads, my friends and I showed up at the Joffrey School on a rainy Tuesday night with cash in hand, clothes to move in, and bare feet. There was a crowd gathering in the thin hallway outside the studio and we were instructed to keep moving throughout the two hours, and not talk.
We entered into the spacious studio, dimly lit, with ambient music playing. Everyone placed their things to the sides of the room and found a space to start stretching and warming up. The room was pretty full, and a real mix of men and women, mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. Some were definitely dancers and took to the Marley floor like a fish to water, stretching their limbs in every direction. Others just started swaying and looking about. I found the floor like my dancer cohorts and began to convince my back I was no longer sitting in an office chair.
We had been told there would be a warm-up and then instruction, but the warm-up time seemed to morph into free movement after about 5 minutes. In college, I was part a member of a modern dance company that based a lot of our repertoire in improv, so I went with the flow but was wondering how my friends were doing, and found myself questioning if I was moving “correctly”. I saw them in their spaces tentatively looking around, saw they were ok, and then went back to my experience. The instructor was at a DJ table, mike in hand, offering single words to translate the movement from.
The music was gaining momentum, as was the energy in the room. Soon we were taking space, jumping to strong beats, and all completely individual. The instructor told us to look at our feet, and then find a partner and move like their feet. I found a fellow woman doing a fun two-step and tapped into her energy. We then had to switch and find a new partner, and a new one, and a new one!
Every person had something different going on, interpretation, rhythm, and we all smiled at the silliness and joy of dancing together. Once we had hit a complete frenzy, the music started to slow and soon we were coming back to simplicity, flow, and eventually quiet as the music ended. The teacher then invited us all to gather around her as she explained the intention behind the practice and gave a visual teaching of the 5Rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness.
I watched her move through the five stages, all the while speaking clearly and witnessed her freedom increase. Her movement was her own language, her ego not attached. As it began to make sense to me, she left us to start the music again and begin with the first rhythm: flowing. My feet were aching, but the music was calling, and this time around I was going to approach it with a different intention.
Five Rhythms speaks of waves, in a circle, likening them to the continuous waves of our lives, and how we deal with them. Can we be in each wave as it comes: the disappointments, the excitements, and losses? Can we just “be”? This practice of five rhythms starts the body easily, flowing then staccato then chaos, and all with the intention to let go of ego and just let your body talk. Isn’t this life? Everyone’s body is different, but the moment authentic communication is happening is universal.
Fears drop and the authentic self emerges. While the class tonight was a mix of people, everyone was a dancer. Everyone was expressing themselves through movement. The room made a pact together, to dance. There were sounds, shouts of joy, hoots and hollers, loud exhalations of breath to keep moving, but no speech. Any sense of self-consciousness basically went out the window.
Jump in, everyone’s playing and it’s ok! Our challenge was to stay connected to the breath without going into our heads and judging, or planning what comes next. We had to live moment to moment with whatever arose in response to the music, our fellow dancers, and our bodies. For two hours, we just allowed.
I had basically sweated my body weight two times over and my back and quads were pleading me for my foam roller and a lengthy downward dog. I chugged my water down and walked out into the cold rain with a smile, after saying good night to my friends who were equally exhausted. This was an experience unlike any other I have had, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but loved it. As I walked into the subway, a question arose as I closed my umbrella and descended the concrete steps.
Could I move through life like I did in the studio? I knew my wish, and headed home for sweet sleep.