"Please send me your last pair of shoes,
worn out with dancing as you mentioned in your letter,
so that I might have something press against my heart."
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When I first began attending classes at the Soul of Yoga in Encinitas, there was a teacher so vibrantly filled with life that it was no wonder her classes were packed to the brim. You never knew what to expect with Summer — she could have you moving through poses or singing songs or dancing with students on the mats beside you. Whatever you ended up doing, it was enjoyable beyond belief and students always walked away with smiles on their faces and hearts. Throughout all of this, Summer was battling a third recurrence of cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease. Since that time, I've never met another teacher quite like her.
After a couple years of teaching now, I've finally begun to embrace my own voice and style. There are plenty of people I'm influenced by, Summer being one of them, but in the end, I aim to let myself be a unique way that the Universe expresses itself. Mostly, I like to encourage everyone to have fun, to challenge oneself a bit while honoring oneself at the same time, and the feedback I receive is that all students want when they come to class is whatever unexpected "Judy special" I have to bring forth.
Music is essential to my classes and I often share my playlists on Spotify. There are plenty of fun, upbeat songs that I'd like to use, but that I've been too shy to incorporate, because I feel I need to be bold in order to encourage my students to feel comfortable moving their bodies on the mat, especially when others can see them doing so!
Today, I played the Jackson 5 "I Want You Back" in yoga. It was organic and it fit and it was after a series of exercises where I asked people to move in ways that expressed the emotions they were feeling, to actually become aware of where in the body these feelings resided. It led to a few minutes of joyous dancing, leaping, bursting forward from the heart, and singing, too!
Afterwards, everyone in class was laughing, having pumped fresh new oxygen through their blood and breaking through any expectations or boundaries of what a yoga class "should" be. If yoga is a practice to help us better understand ourselves in the moment in all ways and to connect with the bliss body that exists within every one of us, what better way to do that than through song and dance?