I got to the Finnish Hall early. I always get there early, especially on the first day. I was eager and curious to participate in a workshop I knew nothing about. The rare glowing recommendation of an internet personality and a cancelled Spring Break trip to Mexico had led me here last minute. In the parking lot next to the garbage cans, I readied my body for what might come. It was the only place left that had any sun.
It somehow got brighter when Shira and Almog pulled up in a Camry. The chariot had arrived; the presenter alongside his host who is also presenting. A sampling of what it must have been like to be in the presence of Sheela and the Bwagwhan. For the weekend, I would be a willing Rajneeshee.
He walked up to me, held out my hand and said, “El-lo. I’m Almog,” with a warm and boyish grin. His hand was very soft. I was immediately drawn in and responded with a mirrored introduction. He thanked me for coming with sincere sweetness before moving on to the next. Where do I get the orange robes?
We started by sitting in a circle. There were twelve at that point (much like the disciples). He spoke about using the body as a vessel for vibration, sound as a translation of relaxation. We started chanting. Immediately, the spell was broken and I felt regret.
I hated chanting. It’s such a weird and foreign practice, and it pushes everything into the woo category. I wanted to find relevance in what we were doing. I quietly obliged and stayed open and eager for the next thing.
The anticipated warm up began. Simultaneously experiencing, memorizing, and trying to get it right kept my attention busy and delighted.
Try keeping the knees straight throughout, and the ground to both push and pull you into rotation. As you twist, there should be no need for weight shift when you lift a leg off the ground. The turning ‘dance’ heel lift should adjust between ending ‘single leg’ load (one hand lifted) and middle double leg equity (both arms lifted to armpits). The final ‘flicking’ sequence uses leg drive/bounce to whip the hands. Imagine you are trying to shoot water from your sleeve/ heel of hand onto your feet.
Continuing, we went through a series of lunges, with contrasting and complimentary hand arrangements:
Each limb placement re-organized the center of gravity and asks for varying stability.
This led us to crawling and and going under and ‘over’ a partner bridge:
The goal was to adjust the movement to situational not-touching to touching. When weighed upon, could you you adjust your structure to receive load and maintain integrity? The constant correction of relaxing the hips and letting go of the pelvis proved my reliance on them to keep me lifted. Releasing the pelvis and its carriers into the floor is a much more efficient way of standing.
THE BIG SURPRISE OF BETTER KNEES
We shifted the playfulness of crawling into a study of the knees. I did not know that several attendees also had knee issues, nor that Almog knew about them and had specifically penned in this portion to offer up some insight. Pressing through the ground in extension was a definitive area of examination. Though not inherently spoken (yet), we were were walking up against actions that induced fear, in an attempt to pause, relax, and pass through.
Distracted by the two bodies resting upon each other, we tried to use the knees as pistons, driving our bodies backwards. First we cooperated with direction, then we competed. Could finding peace with most of our body calm the threat of forcing the knees back?
We added rotation in the form of a spiraling ‘dance step’:
Try to resist the urge to pull the body with the floating leg and instead push through the grounded one. I had to be reminded often to ‘stay open’ along my axis. My posture changed as the move was sped up and the arms were released.
We were taught a simple loop of choreography, which we would come back to throughout the weekend. Its modest nature ensured everyone could follow along and get the steps, and make adjustments as conditions changed.
The all fours to sitting action gave me the most trouble when loading through my left side. By day two, however, the issue had all but disappeared. It took many repetitions and the realization of many more repetitions to come for me to find a path of comfort and correct the anxiety-ridden pattern.
Facing the wrong way was one of the many errors that need to be accounted for when a freshly learned sequence gets sped up.
Finally, we did a little Earthquake Architecture a la Fighting Monkey. We weighted the manipulated leg as well as kept it light, taking our partner to the edge of security, then compassionately keeping them there so they could settle into it as a place of safety.
It takes a special kind of person to adapt their travelling workshop to the needs of their attendees. To pay attention and adjust to the student, and teach them from where they are at. The universal lesson was one of love. In doing so, we acted with care and concern regarding our parts that frighten and betray us, and toward the beings that shared this space and experience. If Almog is the next chosen one of the movement world, it’s because he made those that took a chance on him feel deeply connected. The rareness of this phenomenon, and the grace in which it was delivered, made its relevance flourish into reverence.
Part two of this series attempts to explain how one can cultivate and create such connection.