If there’s one thing all my friends can agree on, it’s that my coordination on the yoga mat does not translate to the dancefloor. Regardless, I’m glued to any and all wedding dance floors, and have yet to see a shimmy that can rival my own.
So it was somewhat out of character when in Zimbabwe this January, I passed up the opportunity to join in on a large dance circle at our Boma, a traditional african dinner. It was a large circle that would alternate bringing one person into the middle, and some of these people were just amazing dancers. I worried about getting pulled to the middle and not knowing what to do, so I found a place to perch and watch with my sister.
The spunky mother-daughter duo on our trip jumped in right away, and when the free-spirited daughter Wendy came back, I remember telling her with a bit of envy, “That looked so fun, it was really cool to watch.”
She replied, “Oh, yeah I wasn’t watching it- I was IN it!”
The words stung a bit, and stuck with me to become my one regret of my trip.
We could credit this to my rampant FOMO, or any cliche “I Hope You Dance” lyric, but it was something more. It was a clear moment where fear stopped me from having an experience I’ll rarely get again. Where I worried more about what strangers from the other side of the world would think more than my own desires.
I hadn’t thought about this in a while, but was reminded over the weekend while attending the Twin Cities Wanderlust event, the world’s only mindful triathlon. After completing a 5k (part 1) on a scenic St. Paul trail, our 90 minute yoga class (part 2) was to start soon, followed by a guided meditation (part 3).
Rather than starting the class right away, the lively emcee cued the DJ to play some party music and she was getting the crowd revved up on stage. With everyone on their mats, she was inviting everyone to start dancing- which is not something people are used to starting a yoga class with. I was bouncing around (another one of my signature moves) on my mat, when I noticed someone was invited on stage.
I mentioned to my coworker, Belinda, how fun it would be to go on stage. She encouraged me to go to the front so that if they called anyone else on, I would get to go. I think she suggested this partially to get me to dance somewhere else, but also because she likes to bring out a more carefree and bold side of others.
Thinking of the Boma, I ran to the front stage. The emcee asked who wanted to go on stage, and I fan girled hard. I was disappointed when she picked a group of three friends to come up, but I knew me and my bad dance moves could break her down with persistence.
Once another pair was called up, I decided there was no reason I needed to wait for an invitation. If I wanted to dance on stage in front of thousands of people like a crazy person, it would be pretty pathetic to miss out just because I wasn’t called on.
So I ran up with them like we’d know each other for years.
It was unbelievable. I knew there was no space for overthinking like I did in Africa, or half-assed bopping like I did on my mat. So I just danced however I wanted. I was completely in my own element with thousands of faceless yogis cheering me on.
Until I recognized two of the faces, my best friends Alyx and Megan, who I also had come with moved to the front of the stage.
A year ago, I was working up the courage to practice yoga in my sports bra. Truly. As an active meditation, I would wear a sports bra (instead of a tank top) to class and challenge myself to maintain positive self talk regardless of what was reflected in the mirrors.
Dancing on stage, in that same feared get up, in front of thousands, and being filled with the utmost joy and energy, that to me is the epitome of freedom.
In the yoga class that followed, we were reminded, “No more playing small, this is your time to live big.”
Wanderlust allowed me to see whether it’s a scenic 5k, a once in a lifetime dance party, a 90 minute flow with a live DJ, or an outdoor meditation, it’s all yoga. It’s a mindset. It’s saying yes, and allowing yourself to experience things as fully as you can.
Yoga is an opportunity to celebrate being alive, and express gratitude for every part of your being.
We focus so much on being smaller, fitting a certain mold, and refining the edges that aren’t perfect. There’s no need to ask permission, show up exactly as you’re meant to today- whether that’s dancing your hardest, laughing (in my case, cackling) your loudest, and daring greatly in every way.
Give yourself permission to take up space, to be seen. I promise you, there’s nothing better.