I'll never forget watching Sir Ken Robinson's "Do schools kill creativity?" during my Bachelor of Education. While his first TED talk is now ubiquitous, in 2007 it was revolutionary and became foundational during my teaching career.
His interview with Broadway ballerina Gillian Lynne still haunts me. As a child, Gillian struggled in school: fidgety, disruptive, unable to focus.
[Gillian's mother took her to] see this specialist. So, [...] this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school, because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on. Little kid of eight. In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "I've listened to all these things your mother's told me. I need to speak to her privately. Wait here. We'll be back. We won't be very long," and they went and left her. But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school. "I said, "What happened?" She said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room, and it was full of people like me -- people who couldn't sit still, people who had to move to think."
While Lynne's story is usually a cautionary tale of over-diagnosing and over-medicating ADHD, I think there's more to it.
I was always a good student. I sat still in class. I got stellar grades. I was annoyingly good at school.
But, when alone, dance poured out of me. I wish I could say I became some all-star competitive dancer, but dance lessons weren't financially feasible for my family. Nonetheless, my youth is a patchwork-quilt of dance: locking myself in my bedroom to dance to songs I'd recorded off the radio, community theatre productions, occasional recreation dance classes when possible, and even starting a high-school dance-team in my Stars-Hollow-esque small town.
When I left for university, the little bits of dance community I'd cobbled together fell apart, and in a lot of ways, so did I. It was pretty dark.
Looking back, I only got my groove back when I re-connected with movement. This time it was more of a hustle: bartending and becoming the social life programmer for my faculty. While this doesn't seem related to dance, it kept me in perpetual motion. I was constantly on my feet, accompanied by a soundtrack thumping in my earphones or over the bar speakers.
This continued during my teaching career: blaring music as I puttered around my empty classroom after-hours or going out dancing at the end of the work-week. This was the rhythm of my life.
When my daughter was born, motherhood floored me. The combination of a traumatic birth and being perpetually trapped under a tiny demanding human left me simultaneously frazzled and stagnant. Again, darkness. Again, movement brought me back. Yoga brought me into my body and out of my head.
Perhaps, we all, to some degree, need to move to think? Or perhaps, we need to move to think clearly.
The whole world is in a stand still right now. We've literally been told to stay-at-home. "Stay" can easily be internalized as "don't move." The problem is inertia begets inertia. In yoga, we call this tamas. Even though I know the benefits of movement from my studies, some days it feels like I just can't. That heaviness? That's tamas.
The only remedy for tamas is rajas: fire, energy, movement, activity.
By moving out of tamas, through metered rajas, you enter sattva: clear headedness, harmony, a sense of goodness.
I've learned to leave myself reminders to stoke my inner fire where I cannot ignore them. I have a yoga mat on every floor of my house, always rolled out as a friendly invitation. I stick to comfortable clothes so I never have to change for yoga/exercise, despite this habit being derided by the entire internet.
I aim to tend my fire regularly and mindfully: a routine log on the coals keeps the fire burning steady, warm, and bright. If you neglect the fire for too long, it goes out. If you add all the wood at once, you burn the house down.
While I'm all about down-regulation, rebellious rest doesn't mean inertia. Rest isn't stagnation or collapsing or lethargy. When you are rested, you are aware and awake with ease. When you are rested, you have a clear head and are better able to meet life's challenges.
For me, moving my body nudges my chattering mind to take a break, to rest.