My friend Michael Noyes, born 1959, is a dancer. He thinks like a dancer. He moves like a dancer. He identifies himself as a dancer. When Michael teaches yoga, he doesn’t teach it as a series of static positions, instantly teleporting from one mountaintop position to another and holding it there. Rather, he teaches yoga as a dance, where the movements between the poses are as important as the poses themselves.

For Michael, yoga is dance, and dance yoga. There are some important things to learn from his approach.

First, when we dance with balance, power, and flexibility, we train our bodies to extend those skills to the movements of our everyday lives, like getting out of bed, picking up a load of laundry, and putting grocery bags in the trunk. We have the opportunity to approach life like Michael does ~ as a dancer ~ graceful, with intention, strength, and poise.

When I pull my carry-on bag down from the overhead, my stage is that airplane, my audience the other passengers, my one movement is the pirouette I have been practicing for hours in the privacy of my home. Sure, I could just yank the bag down like an oaf, but at my age (born 1956) I am well aware that some are watching me with questions that are in the backs of their minds, if not in the fronts: “What will I be like when I’m his age? How will my body decline? Will I ever need help getting my bag down? How much longer will I stay independent? Let me watch this gray-haired guy for a peek into my future.“

I owe it to them to say with my body, my movements, my dance, “If you care for yourself, life as an older person is very, very good. Welcome to the future!”

I owe it to them to become a silver dancer.

But there is a more important reason for approaching life this way, and dance yoga is the metaphor for this lesson. We all enjoy mountaintop moments in our lives ~ those times when things are good and we are happy. We hold those moments like poses for as long as we can. They are good.

But in-between mountaintops are the valleys, the ones we must pass through, the dark and confusing places, tangled with thick vines and rabbit trails that lead nowhere, trials and disappointments, the mottled sunlight of loves that come and go, of bright clearings and bitter darkness. This is where the learning happens.

I don’t know about you, but I spend far more time in the valleys than I do on the summits.

Sure, I could bludgeon my way through them like an oaf, hacking and cutting with a machete, and sometimes that approach is called for. But my preference, my intention, is to become a dancer like Michael ~ training my mind, body, and spirit to move with grace, balance, power and equanimity, through the valley to the next summit and back down again for as long as I have been given to put one foot in front of the other.

I will not trudge.

I will not bludgeon.

I will dance, and I invite you to join me.

Together, we are becoming silver dancers.

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Read a related post, albeit a slightly macabre one, called “What Bones Teach Us.” Still inspiring, in its own way.

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