Bharatanatyam & Yoga

Bharatanatyam is a Yoga, if Yoga means union. For surely this ancient art is one of the most beautiful and satisfying ways of expressing the human longing for union with the Divine. As an art form, Bharatanatyam demands conscious understanding of body mind and emotions.

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SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE APPROACHES OF YOGA AND BHARATANATYAM

There are a great many facets of Yoga and Bharatanatyam that are similar to each other.

DISCIPLINE:

This is an important quality required in both Yoga and Bharatanatyam . Yoga can be defined as discipline and one of the important aspects of Yoga is the emphasis on Tapas as discipline. Yoga also emphasizes that Abhyasa or dedicated and determined practice is vital for success. No dancer can ever expect to master this art without a similar approach of dedicated, determined, sincere and regular Riaz or Sadhana. Sadhana and Abhyasa are vital for success.

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Both arts stress the importance of Guru Bhakti . The traditional method of learning in both of these arts was the Guru-Chela relationship that was often in the Gurukula pattern where the student lived with the Guru as a family member learning 24-hours-a- day for many years before mastering the art. This was a real trial by fire in many cases and only the true seeker would be able to pass such a test. Nowadays both these arts have become academic in nature and a lot has been lost in this transition from Gurukula to college method of imparting instruction.

CONCENTRATION AND MEDITATION:
Many of the concentrative practices of Yoga are based on the Mandalas that are assigned to the different elements of the manifest universe. The dancer requires a similar state of utmost concentration in order to bring about the union of Bhava, Raga and Tala in her presentation. When the dancer achieves that peak of concentration in her performance she loses herself into the state of meditation. The Yogic state of Dhyana and the trance like states experienced by the dancers while performing are quite similar in their universal nature.

BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR DANCERS
Yoga has a lot to offer to dancers through the field of relaxation. In the dance world, all is PUSH, PUSH and PUSH. There is little room for relaxation in the arena. Yoga teaches us that there has to be balance.
The regular practice of Yoga as a ‘Way of Life’ helps reduce the levels of physical, mental and emotional stress. This Yogic ‘way of life’ lays emphasis on right thought, right action, right reaction and right attitude. “To have the will to change that which can be changed, the strength to accept that which can not be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference” is the attitude that needs to the cultivated. An attitude of letting go of the
worries, the problems and a greater understanding of our mental process helps to create a harmony in our body, mind whose disharmony is the main cause of the psychosomatic disorders.

Yoga has a lot to offer in terms of strength, balance, concentration, carriage, stamina, flexibility, coordination, musculoskeletal benefits, physiological function, energy and right attitude.

All round health is developed which will stand the dancer in good stead even after retirement, saving them “post retirement blues and breakdowns”.

BENEFITS OF DANCE FOR THOSE WHO PRACTICE YOGA

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Dance provides a dynamic activity to offset the static activity of Yoga and many modern Yoga practitioners can benefit from such an associations.

Dance also provides a great source for emotional catharsis and this can help the Yoga Sadhaka to get over many of the emotional hang-ups that continue to bother them..

There is a good basis for acceptance that the Mudra does control the mind-brain processes and the functions within the nervous system by uniting various nerve terminals of the sympathetic and para-sympathetic function.
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When the fingers of the hands are united together in the Hastha Mudra, the specific nerves are united together in a closed nerve circuit. The fingers not in use represent an open nerve circuit. If the hands are united together (as in Namaskara Mudra), then the cranial nerve circuits of the head and the upper part of the body in the Pneumo-gastric or Vagus system are united together. If the hands are brought into alignment on the face (as in Yoni Mudra) then the Vagus nerves and the facial nerves are brought together in a closed circuit. If the hands are united with the feet (as in Yoga Mudra) then the Vagus system is close-circuited with the cerebrospinal nerves.

Many of the Bharat Natyam, Mudras are also to be found in Yoga, as they are deeply rooted in the natural physical reaction of the nervous system to certain emotions and states of mind.

The great art of Bharat Natyam surely shows us how we may fulfill our Dharma in a most refined, pleasing, enjoyable, dignified, beautiful and joyful manner.