all photos by SweatNet Charlotte
My first introduction to Shiva Rea was toward the end of my time living in St. John. I was really struggling. My heart was broken into a million pieces by someone who took advantage of me. It was complicated, it's a small island and I didn't know how to navigate through the breakup. I was getting tired of all the partying, but it was the only way I knew how to deal with the pain back then.
I had a fierce tribe of girlfriends (and still do) who did their best to keep me from sinking. We'd go out and it was all fun and games until I'd get drunk and inevitably the night would end with public tears and/or sending angry texts that couldn't be undone. I felt lost, confused, unloved and unworthy. Combine those emotions with a few shots of tequila, and let's just say it wasn't a good scene.
I called my mom daily and told her everything. Okay, so maybe I didn't tell her exactly how many tequila shots I had, but she received her share of unconsolable phone calls. She always sent us the best care packages, and one day a package arrived with a book on meditation, Shiva Rea's Yoga Trance Dance DVD and an article on understanding sociopaths. (Yes, the guy was that bad, but that's a story for another day).
I knew nothing about yoga other than the Hatha classes I'd go to with my mom on college break. I pressed play on Shiva's DVD and my life changed forever. I remember tears falling down my face while I danced around our condo like a madwoman, all by myself and for the first time in months, I felt free.
Fast forward about two years and 100 solo dance parties and I found myself in Washington, D.C., dancing with Shiva and 200 strangers. I was still lost but I was doing my work - I wanted to believe I was lovable and worthy.
Fast forward a few more and I was out in Venice Beach for Shiva's Prana Flow Elemental Vinyasa Training closing ceremony, and for the first time, I was celebrating, dancing for joy instead of to release pain. I was free from past heartbreaks and dancing over the belief that I'm not enough. I'm still a work in progress, but I've come a long way.
I've always loved dancing and the cathartic release it brings. I always wanted to be a dancer but just didn't quite have "the look" or "what it takes" according to my dance teacher in high school. That always stuck with me - until my late twenties, I believed I wasn't a "good" dancer. Then Shiva came into my life and made me realize that we are all born with the innate ability to dance. Free-form movement or ecstatic dancing comes from within. Your soul knows how to move. You don't need to be told by someone where to put your arm or to stay exactly with the rhythm - just close your eyes and let your body move the way it wants to move.
Since my time studying with Shiva, I've dreamed about sharing this practice with our community here in Charlotte but I wasn't sure how it would go. Would everyone think I'm crazy? Am I actually crazy? (a question I regularly ask myself during my solo dance parties). I'm not Shiva Rea so how could I possibly lead everyone through a Trance Dance?
Enter my friends at SweatNet, who are always pushing me to think bigger. When I shared my idea with them, they were all in and they made it happen.
I get incredibly nervous if I'm teaching more than 20 people in a class. Every. Single. Time. So if there are 200 people, I'm in the bathroom stall trying not to hyperventilate right before start time. But for some reason, the Solstice Celebration was different. When I looked out and saw everyone moving and breathing together, my heart softened. I remembered those times I needed so desperately to be told it's okay to be me. To be given permission to move however my body wants to move, to feel whatever it is I'm feeling and dance through the stories, the heartbreak and the pain. To dance for love and joy and celebrate how far we've come. I realized I needed to let go of everything that binds me - including worrying about how this practice would be received. So with a big exhale, I let go - and we danced the night away.
If you're reading this and your heart is heavy, give yourself permission to be where you are. Let yourself feel. Put on your favorite song and turn it up as loud as it will go, close your eyes and start to move your body. Don't worry about what it looks like, just notice how it feels. Let your hair down. Take your shirt off. Let the cascade of endorphins wash over you and know that it's all part of your journey: even the heartbreak and the pain. Dance through it all - there is freedom on the other side.
To every single person who showed up to our Solstice Yoga Celebration with an open heart and danced their asses off: thank you, from the very bottom of my softened heart.
So much love and graititude for my teacher, Shiva Rea for sharing her gifts and encouraging me to pass them on to you.
If you missed the dance party, don't worry - there will be a next time.