West is East.
On friday, we had "Voice training" class. In this class, we simply breathe. We learn how to breathe. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Its meant to be one of those innate things in all living things. Breathing. But we were being taught how to breathe so that we can utilise our energy in the best way possible. It was shocking to see how many people breathed the wrong way. I don't, but I'll get to that later. Again, the same thought occured to me that had struck my mind in the Choreography class. Again, I didn't say a word.
But a strong belief in me was slowly born, and was gaining strength and conviction everyday.
And then my mind wandered to the countless and varied Indians I come across, in India, and outside of it.
There's the "East is East" variety. Like the characters in the film, East is East. These are some of the Non resident Indians. They believe India is the way it was when their ancestors left it three decades ago. They shun any sort of westernisation, believe in sex ONLY after marriage and that any other kind of sex is wrong and immoral. They create their own little ancient India in the heart of Western civilisation.
Then there's the "East is West" variety. They are the numerous Indians living in India who want to be more western than the west. The westernised, modern Indian, ignorant and intolerant of Indian culture by choice. It's Pizza vs Roti, Madonna vs Bombay Jayshree, Jazz dance(Shyamak Davar) vs Classical dance. The former wins the vote more often than not.
Getting back to my thought. The thought that surfaced again and again during my classes. To my amusement, I discovered that outside India, there is a "West is East" clan.
Let me explain - Chicken Tikka Masala is Britain's National Dish. China town in Liverpool serves more people in their restaurants than any "chippy" (place where you can get french fries). Pashmina shawls are the latest trend. Bindis with jeans, toerings, anklets. You name it.
But coming to what made me post this blog in the first place...In the Choreography class, we were warming up, and as the exercises seemed more and more familiar to me, my mind raced back in time to my yoga classes back home. And as I went from one movement to the other, one stretch to the next, I realised. I'm doing yoga.
Two days later, I found myself in the same mindset, as I lay on the floor in Voice training class, learning to breathe from my diaphragm rather than my chest. I was one of the few who was breathing from my diaphragm. And as Chris explained how to breathe, again I thought - I'm doing yoga.
To my sheer amusement, they were calling it voice training, and body conditioning. Not a mention of the word Yoga. So the following week, I raised my hand in class. Upon my mention of the word, the teachers smiled. Yes, we borrow a lot from Yoga.
Yoga means union in Sanskrit. Images of a meditating yogi from the Indus Valley Civilisation are said to be 6 to 7 thousand years old. The earliest written accounts of yoga appear in the Rig Veda(codified between 1500 and 1200 BC).
Yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices, and also a school of spiritual thought that originated in India. In other parts of the world where yoga is popular, notably the West, Yoga has become associated with the asanas of Hatha Yoga, which are popularly considered there as fitness exercises.
Modern yoga practice often includes traditional elements inherent in eastern religion, such as moral and ethical principles, postures designed to keep the body fit, spiritual philosophy, instruction by a guru, chanting of mantras, pranayama(breathing exercises), and stilling the mind through meditation. These are sometimes adapted to meet the needs of non-Hindu practitioners, who may be attracted to yoga by its utility as a relaxation technique as a way to keep fit.
The Natya Shastra, a guide to Dance in general and to Natya Yoga(dance yoga) was written by a muni called Bharata (according to some scholars, bharatanatyam got its name from this man). Natya Yoga was practised by the medieval devadasis and is currently taught in a few schools of Bharatanatyam and Odissi.
Voice training and Body conditioning?