Ecstatic Dance

By Megan Marie Gates

In our society where there is an abundance of rigidity and an over-arching fear of looking/seeming/sounding out of the norm, yoga has been a sweet (and now popular) bridging point for people to find unabashed pleasure in a movement practice.  The repetition of shapes, archetypal postures and being guided moment to moment can be exceptionally salving to people living in fast paced cities like Toronto.  However, in yoga we tend to get used to the repetition of shapes and pay little attention to how our body naturally and impulsively moves.  Bring in yoga’s sister in movement: ecstatic dance.

Ecstatic dance is a movement practice that allows people to move freely and expressively.  The guidelines are simple: move however you wish, refrain from speaking on the dance-floor, mutual respect, and keep it a drug + alcohol free experience.   In Toronto there are a plethora of events that take shape every month bringing people into safe spaces to move their bodies in a free-form manner (in yoga lingo we call it sahaja – meaning “born with”, in the sense of impulsive and organic movement through the body).  Effects of this practice can be quite incredible: experiencing moving in a non-judgmental and welcoming space, feeling your body move without knowing what is going to happen next, dancing yourself into a sweet meditative/trance-like state, etc. The major difference in ecstatic dance compared to yoga is that there is no guide or teacher telling you how to move your body.  Both are wondrous practices with very different and complimentary benefits.

In yoga we speak often about “yoking” opposites to create a whole.  To join in contained, specific shapes with movement that is free and impulsive allows us to integrate into the full dynamic of how we move as human beings.    In offerings that marry these two, we start with a yoga practice to open the subtle channels of the body and create the foundation and connection to our breath.  When we merge into ecstatic dance we are alive in our bodies, warmed up and ready, and begin to dance to a wild array of music (varying from electronic to world music and everything in between).   When the music slows down and we take perhaps the sweetest savasana EVER, we can feel the vibration in our bodies and the residue of both practices, wrapping down the offering with a meditation to integrate it and bring it all together!

Curious? Join Liz Diaz and I for a taste of this magic with Ecstatic Dance/Yoga Rave at Union Yoga -Saturday, March 12th!

Ecstatic Dance is Saturday March 12th from 7 – 9:30. Space is limited. Pre-registration highly recommended. $25 regular, $18 member price. Sign up.

Megan Marie Gates is a yoga teacher, spoken word artist and musician residing in Toronto. Her deep fascination with movement was seeded as a little girl through dance and the performing arts, which lead her to a passion for yoga; infusing these practices with sacred sound (music + mantra), free-form movement, mythology/storytelling and all things creative. Megan Marie is a proud graduate of Octopus Garden Yoga Centre’s 500 hr Yoga Teacher Training Program, 30 hr Restorative Training and a graduate from The Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, BC. She is ever grateful for her on-going studies with her teacher Hali Schwartz.