Although I dreamt of becoming a ballerina, our family’s move to an island 30 miles at sea put the kibash on my beloved ballet classes. Those were the days when I lived in my hand-me-down, oversized leotard, tights (they might have been oversized and previously worn as well) and a pair of Capezio ballet slippers with the elastic band safety-pinned rather stitched in place. You get the picture! Passion for moving my body through space while maintaining an elegant form (well, at the age of 8 it was simply a matter of trying to look elegant and swanlike), becoming one with the dreamy melodies of the classics, was all-encompassing. If I wore “the outfit”, I felt the part, all day long. Unfortunately, there were no dance teachers or schools on the island. My dancing dream came to a screeching halt and I lost track of my ballerina-in-training attire.
The book stacks in the children’s library were my new refuge. During that first year on the island, I made my way through an entire collection of biographies-of-famous-and-important-people for children, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, the Happy Hollisters and the Bobsey Twins. I had become a bookworm; I could read for hours without moving and in fact, remember reading some gripping story through the night, under the bed covers, by flashlight — on a school night!
Years and decades later, long after leaving the island, I have reclaimed my love for dance. Thus the tango photo at the top of this post. I’ve spent time at the ballet barre, on the ballroom dance floor perfecting both smooth and rhythm dance styles, and now I’m learning to photograph dancers in motion, too. So where does the “yoga mat”, as referenced in the title, come into play?
Last year, while I was working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I recognized that after a dance lesson I would have a surge of creative inspiration. And I wondered what would happen if I really shook up my muscle memory and tried different types of body movement. Something new. Break out of a familiar routine, as it were. I have yet to make it to Boston for the African dance class that would be a real stretch from anything I’ve yet tried. But in the past couple of months I’ve been attending a Yogalates class.
As it’s taught at my gym, this blend of yoga and pilates movements is done to fabulous music and invites me to reach for grace and beautiful form, making my heart sing. There’s always a 5-minute cool-down, meditation-like segment at the very end, during which the instructor turns off all of the lights and speaks soothingly in muted tones to the class. After 50 minutes of intense, sweat-producing activity moving my body through all sorts of challenges within the perimeter of my yoga mat, it was during this 5-minute quiet time today that my mind shot to life. Flashing across my mind’s eye without reservation flowed all sorts of ideas for blog posts. As much as I would have liked to stay right there and see what else came to mind, I waited as long as possible before following the instructor’s suggestion to wiggle my toes, stretch my arms and legs, and come to a seated position. Namaste!