It was 1977 when it all stated for me. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees ruled the airways. It was all things disco, which kept my feet happy and threw an eternal smile on my face. Everyone was dancing.
How I loved and still love to dance.
I was blessed to grow up in a house filled with music. My dad played lots of jazz records like Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ray Charles. My mom played the piano and sang to show tunes. They threw a fair amount of parties and my dad was known for ripping up the rug.
How my parents loved to dance.
As soon as I heard music, dancing moved through me. My identity in high school was very much attached to the music I listened too - Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Earth Wind and Fire, Barry White, Carol King and more.
Some kids got fake IDs to buy booze. I changed my birth certificate so I could go dancing at the Milky Way in Westchester with my sister, Kimberly. Clubs were called discos and we all romanticized about being at Studio 54.
It really was the DJ who saved my life and, of course, the community on the dance floor too. The lights, the music, the movement, the NRG, all of it created a Divine atmosphere. I felt ecstasy and oneness. It was a natural high, that feeling of togetherness on the dance floor. We were in it separately but somehow we were all together too.
I never wanted the dance party to end, so in 1987 I opened a joint in Hell's Kitchen called Trixies, my nickname, and the place quickly became famous for the wild spirit of celebration we created. Wacky and talented musical acts came in from all over the world to sing and play the spoons. We were featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America and Regis. Even the New York Times raved about the food! Celebrities stopped by and at the end of each night we moved the tables and everyone just danced.
How everyone at Trixies loved to dance!
And then one day this party girl met yoga. At the time I was doing high step aerobics, taking hip hop dance classes and I rode my bicycle everywhere.
It was surprising for me to find yoga, yet all the ingredients were always there - my love for music, movement and friends. This was my opportunity for awakening.
During my early years of practicing yoga, it felt like my yoga was one practice and my love for dancing another. They were separate. It took years of showing up in my personal practice for me to begin to listen and trust and follow my passion so that I could integrate all my loves: movement, music, the flow of the breath, and a spiritual purpose. For me this became the true union and reunion of all the things I love.
I remember feeling like Mr. Iyengar moves like…himself and Rodney Yee moves like…himself. And because I had had such incredible teachers like Sharon Gannon, Erich Schiffman, Angela Farmer and my main inspiration, Jasmine Tarkeshi, I too wanted move like…myself.
And so I rolled out my mat (I didn’t take a yoga class for close to six years so I could listen to my own divine calling, not someone else’s) and the dance came to me again. It flowed and with God's grace and plenty of effort, I opened myself up to the shapes and movement coming through me.
I realized that I'm already made up of asanas, mantras, mudras. When yoga first began, the yogis didn’t have books to study from. They somehow understood that the body retrieves the soul, that stretching is a way to enter new places and see in different ways. The practice is for us modern yogis is to evolve and use the asanas as a doorway into our super consciousness.
So the vinyasa became a way for me move closer to God, closer to who I really am. It’s part of my continuous evolution.
Finding myself and my voice was a slow process, but a natural one. I just needed permission and time to feel and land and launch in my body. Sometimes the music inspired the movement and sometimes the movement inspired the music and soon new shapes emerged. In the same way we chant the names of Krishna to invoke blessing, the sounds of the music and my body turned into shapes like mudras until suddenly I was dancing through my asanas - Krishna, Kali, Rainbow Warrior, oh my!
With the help and collaboration of my longtime partner, Jasmine Tarkeshi, we cofounded and opened Laughing Lotus IN New York City on a rooftop playground in 1999 and Lotus Flow, our Vinyasa style of Yoga, became a signature style where dance, devotion and discipline are the three major tenets.
The practice continues to be a fresh and creative celebration with Jasmine and all of the teachers at the Lotus. There’s an incredible architecture or form to the sequencing. It’s called freedom. There’s form and there’s formlessness and the mantra at Laughing Lotus is “Move Like Yourself.”
How we love to dance at Laughing Lotus.
It’s 2012 and Laughing Lotus has a Dance Hall, a disco ball, a 40-foot graffiti wall and a Glitter Bar. It’s a community center, a spiritual community that nourishes your being, helps makes the teaching practical and teaches us all valuable lessons in sharing, empathy and seva.
Like Krishna, we are dancing and singing to unite with the Divine, to experience oneness or wholeness. When the separateness dissolves, we truly can feel how connected we are. Dancing is that great dissolver. It's where you and me become a WE.
Today in NYC, millions of breaths later, tens of thousands of chakras opened and with over one thousand teacher graduates we are having a yoga festival, a lotus reunion to gather, to share, to chant to celebrate and of course to DANCE!
See you on the dance floor, family.