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June 2020
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Movement Meditation
It Works For The Body - What About The Mind?

The benefits of meditation are  clearly documented, yet there are plenty of people who hesitate to commit to it because sitting still can be challenging and uncomfortable.

But just as there are many ways to exercise the body, there are many ways to train the mind. Movement meditation is a great option for both those who quiver at the thought of staying seated, and those looking to infuse their mindfulness practice with another variation.  The real question is: does it work?

YogaCity NYC’s Elysha Lenkin found three respected movement teachers  who say that it is one of the foundations of their practice.  She spoke with Lucia Horan from Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms, Akiva Daube, the creator of Psychodynamic Yoga and Khadija Radin, a senior teacher in the Mevlevi Order Of America (also known as the Whirling Dervishes) and the Sufi Ruhaniat International.

Elysha Lenkin: Please describe what you do.                                                                       

Lucia Horan: 5Rhythms is based on an improvisational type of movement (made up of the rhythms -- flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness). All of the movements are born from your own expression of your body, and your relationship to the experiences you are feeling in the moment. It’s using the gateway of your body to become present to this moment, and when we do become present with this moment, we can feel and move into what’s really happening inside of us.

Akiva Daube: Usually the first 10 minutes are spent in asana. Then after asana is about 5-10 minutes of guided meditation which is followed by talk. 

Once the body and the mind are put into postures we can become aware of all that we are carrying from our lifetimes. All the emotions. All the feelings. All the thoughts. Whether we are conscious of them or not, they are with us in the body. So once we bring the bodymind into focus we start to see and feel and sense all these things that are within us, and then we talk about them. 

Khadija Radin: Movement meditation is pretty straight forward because it really boils down to presence. With whirling, if your mind goes, your turn goes. In turning, you are turning to go to the placeless place, the center of the axis. When you do locate the axis, you’ll find it’s one hair thick. I call it the strand of light. This is an understanding that you don’t exist. You are an appearance in consciousness, and it’s through this practice that is realized.

EL: Can you explain the relationship between the body and mind?

KR:  It’s inexplicable. I could explain the relationship between the carcass and the mind. Your body is a carcass, and the reason this carcass moves is because of life force which is impulses. Carcass is enlivened by that life force. 

LH: We don’t see a separation between the mind and body. They are unified. So if you want to experience forgiveness -– we would say, what does that move like? You may not be ready to forgive, but what are the shapes of forgiveness? And then we start to move into those shapes so we can start to open up to the possibility of knowing what forgiveness looks like. 

AD: The mind-- at least in terms of yoga-- is the current thought and feeling, whatever is coming up now. And the current thought and feeling is something that we usually experience in our bodies as well as the mind. And the line of separation between these two apparent creatures, the body and the mind-- cannot really be found. They are useful concepts to talk about-- the mind as separate from the body--but where is the dividing line? 

EL: How is your movement meditation a spiritual practice?

LH: Gabrielle named her book Sweat Your Prayers—Movement As Spiritual Practice. We are dancing for the internal experience. So in terms of enlightenment, we start by just lightening up. By working with the body to empty it out. And when we really engage and get out of our own way -- the veil of illusion of separateness is lifted, and one can experience a union with all living beings, with all things seen and unseen, and experience the liberation of divine connection.

AD: The mindbody is really just a spiritual subject, a spiritual being. That’s why there isn’t a split between mind and body because both mind and body are made of awareness.  It’s made of something which is present, always. Still, always (at least in the background it’s always still), and it’s always aware of itself. Whether it’s conscious or not is a different story. But it’s always aware. What is it that’s aware?  Well, at least in this practice, that’s spirit. So it’s definitely a spiritual journey.

KR: I promise my students I will never give them a belief. And I never expect them to have faith until they have their own experience, and they can reproduce that experience through the practice. Then they can have faith that the practice yields that experience. My students learn how to have that experience more frequently for longer times. That’s a spiritual path. And that spiritual path is called spirit because what I’m teaching is that prana is called life force, which I just described is impulses. Prana and life force and spirit are the same word in many languages.

EL: How does one get started with your practice?                                                

LH: We have 5Rhythms classes (http://www.5rhythms.com/EventSearch.php) several days a week in NYC. I teach on Thursdays at Vira Yoga. I’m also leading a Vipassana retreat with Noah Levine from Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society on August 3rd -10th. It’s a week long silent meditation retreat of the Theravada lineage, and we’ll dance 5Rhythms every day. Please visit luciahoran.com for more information on my other upcoming workshops. 

AD: I teach group classes every Monday night at the Center for Remembering & Sharing.I also offer one on one classes in my office. For more information please visit Psychodynamicyoga

KR: On March 1st, I have a workshop at the Open Center where you can learn the mechanics of facilitating a turn. On May 9th – 18th we’ll host a 10 day women’s silent retreat with yoga, turning, gardening, meditation, swim, and sauna. Please visit Whirling-Dervish for more information.

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