W2C & Nancy Yates at Ed Roberts Campus. April 2012
On this very summery Berkeley day, 12 students flitted and rolled and navigated with white canes into the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program's Fitness Center (housed at ERC).
Nancy has been an adaptive yoga teacher for many years--working with seniors and folks in the disability community. primarily, she has adapted much of yoga instruction for people who are blind or low vision. She asked me to collaborate with her and use my Write To Connect skills to weave poetry in to a yoga class for people with mixed abilities.
I felt like this was fitting. Many people cannot make their bodies into the shapes traditional yoga poses seem to ask of us. Just so, many folks struggle to understand or appreciate poetry. But there is a sea of breath and language in any body or mind's pattern of moving about or thinking in the world. So, why not bring poetry into the flowing realm of movement that is the yoga studio, outside of language. And why not bring the demanding movements in a yoga class into the collagey, bright flashing of words that dart across the surface of any poem? How would a poetry in motion class restore bodies and bring new ways to find expression or to hear poetry?
In these photos, students press, or tap, or massage their jaws--to find their smiles. Nancy leads them to giggle on the lip of insanity, like Rumi, then find the centered breath.
One experiment we did involved this passage from Mei-Meu Bersennbrugge's Concordance
Then, I saw sunrise frequencies
emanate from your body, like music An excited person in light absorbs
wavelengths she herself gives off , asif light were the nutrient for feeling Color is a mirror where we seeourselves with living things , scarletneck feathers, infant asleep acrossyour heart, like-to-like
After reading it aloud, we asked students to pair up and find a way to sit back to back, which was tricky. Some students were blind, some were in power chair, some had difficulty sitting on the floor.
Then we asked the partners to sense into each others breath and practice raising their arms , in sweeping, sun salutation arcs, trying to stay in time and in the keeping with their partners energy. This was "mirror" pose, as the poem by Bersennbrugge suggests.
When it was time for the Shavasana (corpse) pose at the end of the class, Nancy went around the room accommodating different bodies with pillows and blankets. The goal was to support all bodies in just the way they needed to be, so they could fall toward the earth, or lay with a feeling of weighty lightness. This final pose is one of rest and integration.
We shared this last poem by Walt Whitman during Shavasana:
MIRACLESWhy, who makes much of a miracle?As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,Or stand under trees in the woods,Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at nightwith any one I love,Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,Or animals feeding in the fields,Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quietand bright,Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.To me the sea is a continual miracle,The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--theships with men in them,What stranger miracles are there?
Namaste to Nancy and all the students who came today. And Namaste to BORP and the Ed Roberts campus for giving us the space to offer Poetry in Motion!