let your dancer fall
...a mild understatement to say my "rebrand" was a long time coming, ya'll.
Evolved are the Ballerina days & (non-traditional) College student nights of waxing poetic on Tutus & Tea—funny how hard I try to hold onto things however intentionally I decide to let them go... apparently being a post-career "bun-head" is a thing and bless-ed be the Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky/Prokofiev—sprinkled stress-dreams that serenade my sleepless nights with those fairytale memories.
Since retiring from the stage 4 years ago, I've spent my days learning, unlearning, re-learning... searching for meaning, purpose and passion beyond performance. I've insatiably consumed stories through theater, literature, a "formal" education and endless podcast episodes... a reading/listening journey that I prayed would somehow ignite the flames of my next chapter in some sort of delicious "aha" moment. I've grappled with the concept of transition, wrestled with ego, flirted with pride... On good days I'll try on a middle-part and sing songs of surrender, on bad days I struggle to digest the unknown and up goes the messy bun.
Enter (stage left) Yoga. An ancient, mindful practice that didn't "land" right for me as a dancer, but showed up as some kind of life raft while swimming the scary waters of post-retirement academia. Here, a mat . . . a safe space to make music with breath and flow through movements with no pressure of perfection. Here, a practice without judgement, a sanctuary of directionless minutes and moving prayer. Here, a reflection of myself in a mirror, indulging curiosity & questions over corrections & comparison. Here, a roadmap for the unknown, a guidebook for inner work, a symphony space for the story inside.
While pursuing a degree in Psychology at Columbia University, I road the subway over 100 NYC blocks almost every single day to practice at Modo Yoga in the West Village— a studio that would become my Church/Therapist/Gym/Sangha throughout my student chapter. I knew I'd found something special when I'd find myself riding back uptown in a post-yoga daze, #undergroundpoetry pulsing through my pen and a heart so full, I felt compelled to share the goods.
The day after I graduated, I began a new kind of learning-journey that would make up a 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training certification through Modo International (*highly recommend*).
If I'm honest with myself, I took my final bow as a Ballerina with a deep knowing that I might never again find something so purpose-driven... another Calling, a raison d'étre that fuels most Artists through their darkest of days... Meanwhile, every time I returned to my mat I'd think to myself: Here, just might be my Act II.
There's a beautiful, heart-opening posture in Yoga called Naṭarājāsana, a Sanskrit term meaning 'Dancer Pose' or 'Lord of the Dance'. As a "peak" asana that cultivates grace through strength, it's often nestled somewhere in between Warrior I & Warrior II — the irony not lost on me. Back in my beginner/overachieving-dancer-turned-yogi days, one of my favorite teacher's cue'd us out of the pose: She said, quite simply, "Breath in to reach up...breath out to let your dancer fall." I cried my eyes out.
As harmful as we know them to be, it's so much easier to listen to outside voices...the inside ones require louder listening, self-study, self-love. Yoga is a practice in patience, a conversation with breath, an orientation towards quiet. As a centuries old tradition, it has cultivated, carried and shared light between so many bodies, souls and minds... no feat short of an Olympic-torch style exchange from heart to heart.
To hold & harness a mindful practice when "times are good" is both challenging and indulgent. To do so on darker days is vital, quite literally, life-giving.
In transition, in uncertainty, in the depths of life-story rewrites... the answer I've found to be true remains:
Breathe . . . be still and flow.
Welcome to Yoga with Shelby, let's begin.