Last Saturday we saw the movie Black Swan.
Natalie Portman is playing this ballerina in New York City ballet company whose life is completely consumed with dance. Although the movie was a disturbing psycho-drama and in many blood dripping scenes I had to close my eyes, I loved the dance scenes so much that I am ready to see it one more time.
The story of Swan Lake, probably the most famous ballet music composed in the history, takes place in some Medieval central European setting where princes go to forest for hunting and where young girls dance by the moon and magicians put spells on young girls to turn into swans as soon as the sun rises.
I did not stop taking ballet classes until I left Turkey at the age of 25. I changed schools, we moved from one apartment to the other, my friends changed, my parents divorced, I had my first period, I fell in love for the first time, I finished high school, started university, fell in love many more times… During all these years, every Tuedsay, Friday and Saturdays I went to Madame Lili’s ballet classes. I know now, Madame Lilie has been one of the major influences in my life.
When I started yoga, expressing oneself through the movement has become exploring oneself through body/mind/ breath. Yet only after watching the Black Swan, the pieces all came together. Since ballet and yoga are so different from one another, it never occurred to me my childhood love for ballet has transformed itself to a passion for yoga in my life.
What I loved about ballet, more than anything was, its discipline. As oppose to many other children and teenagers, I loved it that we all had to wear simple black leotards and white tights during our yearly exams. I loved it that most of us kept wearing the same outfit during the rest of the year to simplify the practice. It was in Mme Lilie’s classes I learned to stay still and not to fidget out of one pose. Again it was there I learned to watch the movement carefully before trying it and observe its effect in my own body. It was there I learned how to focus my gaze, my energy and my mind in to one single channel.
It has been easy for me to transfer the sense of discipline to my yoga practice and later to my teaching. Staying still, concentration, paying attention to detail, these were easy and familiar things for me.
The hard part was -and still is- the other side of the coin.
The part that requires Letting Go.
In the movie, super charismatic French choreographer (played by Vincent Cassel) kept saying one thing to our stuck-up perfectionist young ballerina over and over:
“Control is one part of perfection. The other part is letting go”
My teacher always guides us into a yoga practice that will eventually wake up what is dormant inside of us. I always think it is sprit he is talking about. For waking up the dormant sprit discipline and perseverance are necessary. But not enough. There has to be keen observation, patience and finally letting go. We can move gracefully and very precisely. Without the component of letting go, sprit cannot express itself freely no matter how much effort has been put out.
Sage Patanjali, talks about the same thing in the first chapter of Yoga Sutras . Two core principles of yoga are abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment).
Here is an explanation of these two principles:
Never give up!
Always let go!
Which side is heavier? Where are you losing the balance? The challenge is to balance the scale.
Because it is neither one or the other.
Perfection is in the precious balance of the two…
Take it easy!