How Yoga Can Be a Performance Art
My students consider me an ‘eccentric’ yoga teacher. The reason, I think, is because I add wild elements to my yoga experience. Wild elements that I find in art, music and literature. How is that? My yoga experience is an entire performance art experience where I am not just the teacher, but also a performer, and I imagine my students as part of the performance, as well. For that reason, in my classes I have students and observers that just want to appreciate the performance, off the mat.
How Can Yoga Be an Art?
It is a little complicated to explain how art can be involve in a yoga experience, so I will try to explain with an example with my most recent yoga performance.
But first, what IS performance art?: According to Wikipedia, “Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation.”
A Two Hour Yoga Performance Experience
The last yoga performance art we did was called “We Are Just a Small Plot of Land, and There Are Wolves Above”. The experience begins with the Moby song Mere Anarchy. I sang the lyrics as if lyrics were mantras, while the students made their own dedication to the practice. After that, we did classical yoga poses such as sun salutations. Later, the soundtrack was loaded, it was time for David Bowie with “A Small Plot Of Land”. This track starts as freeform jazz until Bowie enters. I took this opportunity to explain some issues about the Avant-Garde movement in music, and after the Vinyasa session, and when the Bowie voice enters, the class was prepared to march and strongly mimic play an imaginary piano while I played a Tibetan bowl as if I were Bowie’s band drummer. At the end of the song, the students, in quadruped, imitated the steps of a patient wolf and howled as hungry wolves. Thereafter sounded some vigorous violins: The Winter Season of Vivaldi, and the entire class, in a variation of the Tree pose, played an imaginary violin. That was pretty beautiful.
The wild part of the class was after Vivaldi Tree pose. The soundtrack was in charge of Mastodon, the Progressive Heavy Metal band. During the track: “Crack The Skye”, each student was in the Chair pose while the Mastodon vocalist sang the lyrics: “the vessel forged inside of me, watches over like the death of the moon”. The shrieking, raspy, high-pitched voice of the Mastodon’s vocalist was strange, entrancing in chaos territory, where I pretend, the students were trained to stay well in a chaos situation, training the body and soul to be elastic to the pain. They sat well in a imaginary and comfortable chair in the middle of the chaos!When chaos finished, then sounded the Nirvana song “You Know You’re Right”, and the students did Hatha Yoga poses while I told stories taken from Steppenwolf, novel of the German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse. I spoke about how I think, Kurt Cobain was a Steppenwolf, in my opinion Kurt Cobain had two souls: a man soul and a wolf soul. I’m not sure if the students attained Nirvana state.
At the end of the experience, in the relaxation moment, I declaimed song lyrics of the Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, in form of poetry, with Frédéric Chopin classic and relaxed piano romance as background. I used a potent Marshall speaker connected to my iPhone for the soundtrack during the entire experience. That sounded loud, too loud actually. During the experience I used music of Portishead, Alex Cameron, Björk, Unkle, Pink Floyd and others that I did not mention here.
People loved the two hour experience. Students and observers alive mentioned truly achieving a ‘here and now’ experience. As the musician Brian Eno would say “A big here and a long now”. On the other hand, for me, as the Yoga Performer teacher, this is a creativity challenge given that each of my Yoga experiences are different in the Performances, in the music, and in the speech.
So Why Performance Yoga?
On the whole, I called this kind of eccentric, wild, contemporary Yoga experience as Avant-Garde Yoga. I know, I will never get the Nobel Peace Prize, I don’t know if my Yoga experience looks like an Alfred Hitchcock & David Lynch movie. This is my proposal, and I think is fabulous. Avant-Garde Yoga is a space where Art, Music and Literature meets Yoga. All this because I am absolutely convinced that Art appreciation is the key for a healthy soul, and remember: “The perfect soul is simply the healthiest version of the soul you already have.”