Dancing with Baba – An Artist in Residency Apprenticeship

arthur-hall-dance-apprenticeshipIn the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share the story of my apprenticeship with master dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall. Arthur was one of the pioneers of Afro-American dance. I met him in 1996 and joined his International Dance Company. This community organization performed in my hometown region of midcoast Maine.

Dancing with Arthur was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I’d never danced so hard or with so much intensity. I remember holding my wrists under the running tap water (a futile attempt to lower my body temperature…)

Dancing with Arthur was exhilarating and set the bar well beyond any of the classes that I took in my first year of college as a dance major. I took a leave of absence and moved back to Maine.

mbm-yanvalluAt that point the International Dance Company was starting to dissolve. Many of the older dancers felt that their bodies weren’t holding up. So Arthur offered me an apprenticeship position with his African Festivals in American Schools residency program. A quote from his Obituary speaks to his teaching ability:

As captivating a dancer and as unique a choreographer as Arthur was, he is perhaps most widely loved and remembered as a master teacher. He has taught classes for thousands upon thousands of people over the past half century, from the most strenuous technique classes for professional dancers to the gentlest call-and-response classes for kindergartners, Arthur was gifted with an ability to read his students and tailor his classes to individual needs. His therapy classes for the physically or mentally disabled were always joyful, and frequently produced near-miraculous results.

Arthur spent forty years developing his residency program. I spent three years traveling with him throughout Maine, Arizona and New Hampshire. We worked with thousands of people, primarily elementary and middle school students.

arthur-hall-apprenticeship-arizona-children

My responsibilities included assisting Arthur with large (50+ student) classes, co-leading warm ups, directing group exercises, and working with individuals and small groups of students. I performed solos from the International Dance Company’s repertoire and coordinated student dance performances.

It was a life-changing experience. I have a distinct memory of standing on a playground with Arthur surrounded by a sea of children. They were trying to hug us all at once so we couldn’t move. This was the kind of effect that he had on people.

arthur-teachingArthur was like a grandfather (Baba) to me. We spent countless hours together at restaurants and bars. To get me in the door he’d tell the bouncer that I was his daughter. It was a blessing and an honor to spend time with him.

I assisted Arthur throughout his battle with colon cancer. He was hospitalized at the end of a stretch of Arizona residencies. I substituted for that last week. It was essentially my final exam.

Arthur passed away in July of 2000. I attended four memorials in Maine, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and Arizona. It was heartbreaking but I am so very grateful for his influence in my life.

arthur-hall-apprenticeship-memorial
Mr. Wande Abimbole, Awise Awo ni Agbaye (Spokesperson of Ifa in the Whole World)

I tried to continue Arthur’s work with the New Hampshire Arts Council but they informed me that I needed forty years of experience or a college degree. So I went back to college to become a dance teacher. My life took some interesting turns which led me to become a yoga teacher.

Coming Full Circle

Dance is my first love and I’ve been searching for a way to begin to teaching dance again. I’m very happy to announce that I have found a way to do so. Stay tuned for more details…

arthur-hall-apprenticeship-emily-seymour

ILE IFE: House of Love from Ile Ife Films on Vimeo.

Winter Solstice and the Guru Bead

Winter Solstice Guru BeadThe winter solstice marks the shortest and darkest day of the year. After December 21st the daylight increases but for a few days the sun’s high point appears to stand still before changing direction. Within this stillness a powerful change is taking place. The winter solstice is a time for reflecting on the past before beginning the next cycle.

With all of the parties, projects and presents calling our attention we may resist the urge to turn our focus inward. But setting aside time for reflection helps us clarify what we hope to create in the coming year. The winter solstice can be a time for grieving as well as celebrating past memories. It can be a time of gratitude for our accomplishments and identifying the lessons of our mistakes.

If we can be gentle with ourselves we’ll be able to move through this process with ease. A time of reflection is an opportunity to be lovingly honest with ourselves. Opening our hearts to the past can help us release old patterns that may no longer be serving us. The solstice presents us with a valuable opportunity to connect with our inner teacher.

On a personal note, this is my 109th blog post. The number 109 has a special significance. A Japa mala is a string of prayer beads that is used for meditation. The most common malas have 108 beads. 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism and Buddhism. Almost all malas have a large bead at the end called the Guru bead. This extra bead is also called the Mother or Seva bead.

When using a mala a practitioner holds each bead as they recite a prayer or mantra. This practice helps to build tapas, the alchemical or purifying heat of transformation. Once a practitioner reaches the Guru bead they reverse direction.

The Guru bead serves as a reminder of the sacred connection between a teacher and a student. It is considered to be disrespectful to pass over this bead. The Guru bead reflects the awareness that we should bring to every aspect of our lives and the value of contemplating the intention of our meditations.

As I’ve reached the Guru bead of my writing meditations I’ve been going back and updating articles from the past four years. I recently started learning about SEO and have been applying this technology to my website. This time of reflection is helping me prepare for the next evolution of the Mind Body Mandala. You can find the fruits of my labors on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a peaceful New Year!

Emily Seymour Yoga Guru Bead Reflections

 

Personal Yoga Benefits

 

CartwheelAre you thinking about starting a Personal Yoga training program? If so, this is a great article to read before we meet for your FREE initial consultation. It’s based on real-life accounts from former students who have experienced the recalibration of a Personal Yoga training program.

How will my life improve from training with Emily?

You may experience any or all of the following benefits:

  • Feel more comfortable in your body.
  • Stronger, more flexible, more at ease.
  • Less pain, increased mobility.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Improved posture, healthier.

Some senior students have even reported growing taller!

You may also feel:

  • Calmer, happier, kinder.
  • Relieved, grateful.
  • Empowered.
  • Sexier.
  • Less anxious.
  • Less angry or frustrated.
  • Confident, knowledgeable.

One student remarked how my approach is like a teacher training. It’s true, I provide teacher training-level information at a fraction of the cost! I believe that everyone who wants a solid yoga training should have access to this information, so they can learn how to do their own life-long, sustainable practice. Studios will sometimes offer “unlimited” yoga specials. What I’m offering is the ultimate form of unlimited Yoga – the ability to practice anytime, anywhere! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Personal Yoga can benefit you I’d be happy to schedule a phone call or meet for a cup of tea. You can contact me by emailing: mindbodymandala@gmail.com. I look forward to speaking with you!

Park Gym Mandala

Park Gym
Photo courtesy of Bodybuilding.com

So I recently discovered this amazing park gym in Boise, Idaho…

The Bodybuilding.com Park Gym at Ann Morrison Park is made up of 15 pieces of durable new fitness equipment installed on a 1,400-square-foot pad. Use of the equipment, which is accessible year round, is free to the public.

If you’re not sure how to use all of the pieces of equipment, you can follow the detailed, step-by-step instructions that are posted at the entrance. (Self Teacher Training note: you can also devise your own ways to use the equipment.) 

I’ve seen outdoor gyms before, but I really liked this one because it’s circular and because it’s designated for adults and children (14+). Why is this so awesome? Outdoor training season has officially started, so it’s probably a good time to discuss a common stereotype about adults using playgrounds. 

During the warm months I like to practice in parks and playgrounds. They’re great for Mind Body Parkour and exercising in nature does wonders for the spirit. Most of the adults are enjoying time with their children and my interactions with them are positive. But every once in a while I’ll encounter some resistance.

I could tell you stories…

There’s a fraction of the population that doesn’t support the idea of adults using playgrounds for exercise. I see this as being due in part to the a large number of Americans who’ve fallen prey to the Spectator Epidemic. Meaning, they tend to be passive observers about exercise which is a big problem in our culture. In this video of Chinese seniors, you’ll see that their culture is completely supportive of adults exercising in parks.

So I’m even more appreciative of parks that cater to adults who want to work out. When you consider that obesity rates in America are among the highest in the world, with two out of every three Americans being obese or overweight, it’s quite obvious that we have an exercise shortage in our country. According to Wikipedia:

Obesity has led to over 120,000 preventable deaths each year in the United States. An obese person in America is likely to incur $1,497 more in medical expenses annually. Approximately $190 billion is spent in added medical expenses per year within the United States. Obesity is a preventable condition that has been increasing within the United States. Health authorities anticipate no change to this vector.

What is needed in order to bring about this change is a shift to the public’s perception about integrating exercise with lifestyle. Television is the primary obstacle, as it breeds passivity and creates a mind-body disconnect. It also prevents many people from perceiving their homes as viable places for exercise.

A good starting point in beginning the process of lifestyle rehabilitation is to use your local park for routine exercise. It’s free and easy to access (for the most part). By doing this you’re helping yourself as well as helping to shift the collective consciousness.

Want to learn more about developing your own park gym routine? Book a FREE no-obligation consultation today.

Yogis Can Eat Meat (if They Want to)

Yogis Can Eat Meat
I’m a flexitarian, which means that I eat small amounts of healthy meat. As a yoga teacher, people tend to assume that I’m a vegetarian. I enjoy vegetarian cuisine and have experimented with vegetarianism, but it isn’t in my best interest to eat that way.

I could replace meat with supplements or food combining options (such as rice and beans) and would do so if I had no other options. I just know that my energy level and health is enhanced from animal proteins. I understand that every person’s body is unique and their diet should reflect that. This is just what works for me.

I grew up in an American home. My family belonged to a co-op for a while and supported the Maine organic farmers association. I experimented with vegetarianism when I was in high school, but quite honestly I had no idea what I was doing.

When I went to college I didn’t like the cafeteria food, so I wound up eating a lot of cereal, bagels and salads. My boyfriend came to visit and saw how depleted I was, so we bought a hotplate and we made pasta and sausage in my dorm room. That first home-cooked meal was like finding water in the desert.

After a year at college I decided to take a leave of absence and began apprenticing with my dance teacher. Being on the road and eating out a lot while teaching five days a week took a major toll on my body. During spring break I experimented with the Blood Type Diet. After just a week of eating according to my Type O recommendations I felt healthier than I had in years. I was eating sprouted grain breads, vegetables, fruits and small portions of healthy meats and fish. The higher cost of eating this way kept me from continuing, so I fell back into my old patterns.

After my dance teacher passed I became friends with a group of people who had a cooking tradition. Each week a different person would cook a shared meal. I was very nervous about cooking for a large group, and my first attempt was a failure. One of the older women shared some of her cookbooks with me. One was specifically for “starving artists” like myself.

I started teaching myself how to cook.

I began to integrate these books with what I’d been learning about food energetics. Cooking became a meditation for me as I practiced listening to my intuition while preparing simple meals.

I moved to New York where I met a Chinese doctor and martial artist. He taught me about cooking alchemy from an Oriental medicine perspective. I started to view my food as medicine. For the first time in my adult life I started relaxing my belly while I ate. As a dancer I’d always held it in out of fear of eating too much. I was exercising a lot and learned that in order to train effectively I had to have enough of the right kinds of fuel in my body.

I went on to study yoga and Ayurveda, and continued learning about food as medicine. Like any other food, meat has medicinal benefits. My yoga teacher (who eats fish and eggs) taught me about the importance of gratitude and the power of prayer when eating.

There’s a common misperception in New Age circles that eating meat is somehow less “spiritual” than vegetarianism or veganism. There are many yoga teachers who eat meat and even the Buddha ate meat. Apparently eating meat was what killed him though – the story goes that he died from being served contaminated pork, which is a great argument against mishandling.

Every person has the right to eat however they want.

This is just my story about food and I’m interested to hear yours. Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.