From a young age, Theresa Elliott was fascinated by the ability of sound and movement to engage the human body and serve as a form of expression.
Elliott was introduced to yoga in 1987 and it only took one class before she knew that this is what she wanted to pursue in life. It was only three years later that she became a certified Iyengar teacher. Ever since, she has been involved in the world of yoga. She has taught in numerous studios in the Seattle area, worked with a variety of people, developed a teacher training, opened the doors to Taj Yoga and became a choreographer.
When Elliott — the passionate dancer, the experienced practitioner and instructor with endless love for music — decided to create her yoga dance program, it didn’t come as a big surprise, at least to her. She was captivated by the combination of yoga and dance.
“Expression and rhythmicity were so important,” she said.
By focusing on dance techniques, on movement and on proper alignment, Elliott has designed numerous yoga dance sequences and classes that provide, as she describes it, a “warm up of stationary balance alignment, [which progresses] into movement and transitions [into] technique, set to the tunes du jour.”
“The poses are the dots,” she said. “They give us position, framework and space.”
Back when Elliott started practicing and teaching yoga, she noticed that many of her students knew the poses, but had no idea how to transition between them. To her, that “transition” was an important part of the practice; it wasn’t only about doing the posture, but also about all of the space in between. From this, she designed the “dot to dot” yoga dance sequence. This sequence brings harmony to the practice, she said.
The yoga dance video above was produced 20 years ago.
What is the difference between yoga dance and a regular Vinyasa class?
There is a conscious connection to the music, Elliott said. While following proper alignment, students also have the opportunity to improve their rhythm, coordination and awareness. Another benefit is that the pattern recognition allows you to quickly recognize the repetitiveness of a motion and work on its proper execution. It also exposes you to different routines and movements, so even if you are studying an unfamiliar dance move, you begin to develop trust for your instinct and rhythm.
Who can attend a yoga dance class?
Everyone is welcome, Elliott said, but having a good understanding of the standing poses is preferable and the minimum asana requirement is three years of stationary technique. Knowing the name of the poses is important, as the flow of the class is a combination of the yoga postures and the choreographed dance routine.
What is Elliott’s focus?
Elliott hopes to deconstruct the postures and the movement in order to achieve a complete harmony between the two while working on increasing rotation and building muscle memory.
“You are not tight, you just don’t have your bones at the right place,” she said.
Elliott also focuses on educating her students about anatomy and understanding the human body.
Is yoga dance like Zumba?
Zumba is “fun aerobics,” Elliott said, with a smile. Yoga dance classes are designed to educate practitioners about physics and to learn how to be present while comprehending how their body moves.
What do you think about the evolution of yoga over the past 20 years?
“Your body is your animal,” Elliott said. And when you place that animal in a comfortable space, the mind feels stable and meditation starts. It takes time and care to evolve your body and mind, she continued. Elliott believes that yoga has become fast-paced, like many other things in the world. It’s like “hurry up and get your leg behind your head, at all cost,” she said.
What is your advice for yogis?
“You should have an elder,” she said. “Someone who is way ahead of you and who can warn you.”
Elliott’s own personal yoga inspiration comes from long-time friend and mentor, George Purvis, and from the anatomical teachings of Judith Lasater.
We live in a very loud culture, and yoga requires us to pay close attention to something very calm, she said. The introverted nature of the practice is not often recognized because many yoga practitioners are extroverts and our lifestyles demand speed, so we can be missing out on getting 100 percent out of the practice.
“The benefits of yoga for people of all walks of life are innumerable,” Elliott said. “However, as yoga has proliferated, yoga-related injuries have risen at an alarming rate.” To counter this, Elliott focuses on working with people who are seeking “sound technical advice.” One of her priorities is to provide a safe place for people from all walks of life while adapting the practice to their individual needs.
So, if you feel like exploring yoga dance Elliott welcomes you. Everyone is welcomed to the studio including yoga practitioners, dancers, dancer-wannabes and those who wish to experience the creative expression of yoga paired with music.
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