Dynamic Blend of Dance, Yoga, Breath...
A dynamically balanced blend of West African Yoga, contact improv, chanting and breath work, trail running, free climbing, rock balancing, Afro Brazilian dance, Aikido rolls, kiatsu, massage, bodysurfing, and musical ensemble, moving through complex, three diminsional spaces in nature, and set to the natural pulse of waves, tide, birdsong and breath.
Move, play and make music together in, diverse wild nature power spots …
Improvised jams, moving for example, through bicycling, walking then sitting/ breathing, partner yoga, contact improv, on ocean rocks and with waves.
Breath—centeredness, extension of ki (life force)
Dynamic balance—between the earth and our centers of gravity, leading/following, structured/spontaneous, solo/social, mix of different movement modalities, in each moment
Awareness—of self, others, the properties of the environment
Creativity--vision for what could be
Willingness—openness to trying new things
Reverence—respect and honoring of all our relations, nature
Discernment[Kristen safety rap]—sunscreen, water
This is the movement vocabulary we draw the mix from, plus, of course, whatever you show up with. Any of these are game for combining in dynamically variable, balanced proportion, for the moment. Some combinations which are novel or have special properties are described as well.
Yoga—For flexibility, reducing the chance of injury, sensual pleasure of stretching, practice with synchronizing breath and movement. Astanga class is a good way to practice this piece of the puzzle.
West African Dance— As with other kinds of dance, the rhythm is mapped to different parts of the body. For example, the hips might complete a recurring movement cycle once per measure, the arms four cycles, the head two, and the hands eight, with other flourishes being the equivalent of melody. All dances we do are have a four-or eight count, like west African and Afro Brazilian. Hunter’s class at Ginga is the best place to practice this, to high energy live drumming.
West African Yoga—Yoga-like stretches, with a West African rhythm. Cruise mode uses the motion of the hips to set arms and legs spinning almost effortlessly. This looks like you’re doing a lot of big, fast dancing, but is so easy you can do it all night long. Stretch mode adds just enough velocity to the flinging of the otherwise effortless limbs to get them to the first or second stretching edge for a moment at the return point of their arc.
Contact Improv/ Partner Yoga—Dance with transfer of weight between partners at its center. Feel the earth through your partners body, by making a firm offer of your weight, which they firmly accept onto their comfortably arranged skeleton. Maintain a rolling point of contact. Slow down as much as needed to maintain grace. Extend your arms and legs all the way outward to be more ready to catch yourself should you need to. Five Rhythms has the perfect floor (tatami mats) for practicing this, as does the Saturday drum circle (grass).
Acro Yoga—acrobatics, partner yoga, and Thai massage.
Chanting and breath work—synchronizing breath and movement is a long-term learning for adding power to your practice.
Aikido rolls—Are a key safety skill for bailouts on trail running & biking, and they are great mixed into contact improv.
Trail running, creek running—sharpen up the wiring in your cerebellum on Santa Barbara’s premier trail running course; a half-mile of twisty cliff-top single track, a hundred foot tall nearly vertical chute, a two hundred yard naturally sculpted bedrock sidewalk, and a constantly shifting ocean. In the case of all but the last course, it is critical to clearly discern the edge of your abilities and not go over it, to avoid injury or death.
Free climbing—Contact improv with rocks, trees and buildings as partners.
Equillibrium—Not getting dizzy or succumbing to vertigo is a helpful skill for West African Dance, wave capoeira, contact improv, trail running, and other moves we do. A good way to practice this is spinning. Once you find that you can spin fast indefinitely without vertigo, add challenge by spinning in the wave wash zone (where the ground looks like its moving back and forth), running while spinning, then running and spinning in the wave wash zone, or (the hardest for me); spinning while looking straight up,
Afro Brazilian dance—practice this at Ginga with Vanessa Issac.
Kiatsu—Concentrated trigger point medicine for knots & injuries.Trigger points are small, specific points in the body where life energy concentrates, often corresponding to the ligaments where the force of an entire large muscle is transferred to the bone it moves. Trigger points are activated with the tip of the thumb, finger or elbow. Moving a quarter inch or changing the angle of your thumb is pointing into the skin can make the difference between hitting the trigger point or not. If the recipient cannot tell if you are on it or not, you are not on it. Watching their eyes is a good way to tell non-verbally when you’ve got it.
Anti-soreness massage—Muscles used in ways they are not adapted to develop micro tears. These breaking of these cells is the signal to the muscle that it needs to get stronger or longer. The broken cells spill their contents into the space between the cells, where it composts, causing soreness. The tearing is a necessary part of developing any new physical capacity, but the soreness is not. Anti-soreness massage consists of squeggie-ing the muscles firmly to mobilize the broken cell debris into the lymph system, which is the bodie’s sewer system. Starting at the tips of the fingers and toes, squeeze this gook towards the heart, like the body is a giant toothpaste tube and you are getting the last toothpaste out of it. To be effective, this must be done before you go to sleep on the day the damage is done…the next morning is too late. We’ll practice this at the end of class as needed. You can do all of your body except your back by yourself It only takes about 10 minutes to cover the whole body and reduces soreness by something like 3/4.. Drinking lots of water also dramatically reduces soreness, by making the gook less viscous so it flows through the lymph system better, I imagine.
Safety—There are two ways of dying: going too far, and not going far enough to live. Each of us are responsible for finding their own best balance point on this continuum for each moment of our lives. The principle hazards in these practice sessions are: Falling off the cliff from inattentiveness on the bluff, falling on the rocks from sand on the feet or a mis-calculated jump, sunburn, or overextension of a muscle.
Biking —You can extend the reach of these practice sessions into your life on either side by biking to and from them. Human powered-transportation is a key element for ecological, economic, and physical health.
Wave capoeira —a mix of capoeira, body surfing, and judo, done at the edge of the ocean on rock-less sand beach, ideally to live drumming (though techno can be good if the waves are really big).
Musical ensemble—Chant, sing, clap, yell, play a shaker, or take a turn on the drums. Taking classes and playing at the drum circles is a good way to practice.
Natural pulse of waves, tide, birdsong and breath—The earth is our constant dance partner. She spins, wobbles, and spirals down, the planets, stars and moon pull her this way and that as they wheel overhead, the tide and waves pulse, woodpeckers play lead drum…
Practice this wherever you go.
Roots of Integrated Movement
The roots of integrated movement— a subset of integrated life practice—are many and deep.
If all movement possibilities are like a vast, verdant garden, the usual way of practicing them is within walled boxes labeled “yoga class,” “massage school”, “West African class.,” etc. Perfectly expressing the nature of our culture, it’s the specialist, reductionist approach to movement.
Integrated movement, in contrast is all about the walls of these boxes falling open, flower-like, to let the wild animals in, and the practices and practitioners out, to freely mix and cross-pollinate, into the perfect, dynamically balanced blend for that moment in the garden.
This vision of integrated movement sprouted in the middle of the Saturday Drum Circle in 2002
The first time Kristen and Art danced together, a bunch of box walls got breached. Is she in the “leading?” box? Am I? Actually…the leader/ follower balance point itself was dancing back and forth between us fluidly, now entirely within me, now entirely within Kristen, now oscillating in the middle. Are we doing…West African? Wait..this is yoga, no-now it’s chanting meditation…our language itself is so box-oriented. As I struggled to understand or label what we were doing, Kristen simplified it for me: “Come on—Just play with me!” Stepping out from the tangle of labeling tape into the frictionless, weightless space of beginner’s mind, playing is mostly what we’ve been doing ever since.
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