Indian Classical Dance and Yoga

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Recently I met someone who was teaching both Bharatnatyam and yoga and she emphasized that they both complement each other in a wonderful way. This made me look more deeper into the connections of indian classical forms and yoga.

As we know, practicing and performing any Indian classical dance needs a dancer to be fit and alert as the dance involves lots of physical movements. If we talk about Bharatnatyam, it involves both – the body movements called ‘Nritha’ and the facial expressions known as ‘Abhinaya’.  Both of them play equal and important roles in learning this dance form. An artist with the high fitness quotient can perform the powerful Nritha with ease, not letting the fatigue taking over in her performance as quality performance can be demanding on a dancer’s body.  An intense performance requires lots of stamina and especially a strong core that keeps the back upright, helping in a proper balance so that one can move her limbs gracefully and in a fluid motion.

If we look closely Yoga and Bharatnatyam have many facets that complement each other beautifully.

Basically, Indian classical dances require a strong core and a fantastic breathing, which can be achieved with a regular practice of yoga. The most basic requirements of a dancer like an increase in the stamina, achieving flexibility and enhancing balance can be achieved with Yoga. Many types of breathing exercises also help to calm the mind which is again something that a dancer needs while performing.

Moreover, a passionate and powerful dance performance is nothing but a complete harmony of mind and body and the whole Yoga philosophy is based on that principle. Also, a good performance requires spiritual, mental and physical discipline which can be developed with a regular practice of Yoga. Dedication is vital for Yoga Sadhana and the same can be said for the Bharatnatyam Abhyasa as well.

Furthermore, they both are based on Guru Bhakti. If we glance at the past, the student lived in Gurukula, following the Guru-Shishya parampara, staying with his Guru for many years to master the art.

Have you ever looked closely at the dancer in a trance when she is performing? The Yogic state of meditation is not different from that. As the Yogi forgets about the worldly attachments and reaches a state of meditation so does the dancer when she brings out the unmatched union of Tala, Raga, and Bhava through her performance. There is no wonder that she also forgets about the world and reaches that higher state of meditation.

Here is one more aspect that is common between Bharatnatyam and Yoga both. They both concentrate on the Chakras.

It is clear that dance can be seen as a meditation as both require the control of all the senses, conscious understanding of body, mind and emotions and withdrawal from the world, concentrating on the inner self. Like Yoga, the beautiful art of dancing, Bharatnatyam, also expresses the human desire to be united with the Divine, in the most eloquent way.  Hence Bharatnatyam is nothing but Yoga. After all, “To reach from dhyana to pratyahara state is necessary prerequisite to being able to meditate as well as to be able to express the inner feelings and thoughts of the mind.”

Image Credit: FreeStock

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