Yoga in the Dark

Yoga in the Dark.  No, it’s not a typo.  It’s  yoga done in the “dark”and not in the “park” and it’s an entirely different experience from the light-filled atmosphere of doing yoga outdoors in the summertime.  Yesterday afternoon I taught a yoga workshop in the dark.

Long before I started teaching, I took a yoga class at University Heights Community Center through the Experimental College.  Every week I showed up for a winter evening Hatha yoga class.  I’d always find the instructor sitting quietly outside the classroom.  She would greet and usher me into a dark room where  I’d put my mat down, just barely able to see.  The lights were off, but the room had huge old fashioned lead windows which let in a modicum of light from the street.  I remember feeling comfortable and anonymous in that big room.  I was aware of  others in the room, but I’d never recognize them outside of the yoga room.

I take suggestions for workshops themes and this one came up: “Let’s do yoga in the dark.”  I must admit it was a little out of my comfort zone.  I did my best to make the room as dark as possible by putting black paper over the door windows and covering the EXIT sign.  Despite my efforts, there were small hints of light, like the thin stream of light coming through the door frame that reflected off the studio mirrors.   I was prepared to perhaps have someone feel claustrophobic or uncertain in the darkness, so I had my flashlight on hand and invited workshop participants to call out my name at any time should they need me or the light nearby.  When I turned off the flashlights, I heard one gasp and much silence.

How seldom we are enveloped in complete darkness.  The darkest I have ever experienced is when the power went out in the midwest at night and storm clouds covered the sky so that not even star light was visible. My mother always had emergency candles on hand so we were never in darkness for long.  As a child, I remember feeling relieved once she lit the candles.  At my home, I have dim night lights that go on automatically when it is dark out.   I know a war veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) who cannot not fall asleep unless the lights are on.  Darkness can present a blanket of discomfort or it can bring us to a different level of awareness, one void of visual intake.

Earlier I was looking for ideas on the internet for this workshop.  Which poses would I do for such a class?  Which ideas could I espouse?   I knew it had been done before, but I saw in photos that participants wore glow in the dark t-shirts and the room was candle-lit.  I wanted to experience a practice in darkness.  I could not find any ideas.  What I did find surprised me!  When I searched “Yoga in the Dark”, The Dark Side of Yoga came up!  Another article came up called Fear of the Dark Art of Yoga.  Both sites were the work of Conservative Christians.  Wait, I found one other topic that came up with many links:  Yoga for Dark Circles Under Eyes.  My confession, I actually got side-tracked and read up on the latter.

So back to the meat of yesterday’s workshop.  Unlike a typical class, practicing in the dark makes you more cognizant of your surroundings.  Your brain relies on heightened awareness from senses other than vision to process sensory information in order to stay balanced.  This workshop experience is about what you don’t see.  It is also about what we don’t know is happening around us!

Yoga is meant to be experienced in your own body, where the only thing that exists around you is space.  In the dark, we work on poses that are grounding, yoga poses that allow us to feel the earth, the breath, the body moving.  I called out mantras that went like this:  In the dark, anything is possible.  In the dark, there is no comparison.  In the dark, there is no judgement.  In the dark, there are no limits to what is possible.

During the workshop, I had to be very clear with my voice.  My voice was the only link to teaching the class.  It was very strange not to observe in my usual way and stranger yet not to help with adjustments.  Instead, I had to stay put (how would I walk around without tripping?) and I had to listen to the class breathing.  I had to tune in to the class in a completely unusual way.  It surprised me to find I could sense if someone was uncomfortable, or if someone was elated with the experience without seeing them.  For the most part, I stayed put and simply guided the class.  The highlight for me was doing the Sun Salutations. I got up and did them along with the group.  The class was quiet as they floated from one pose to another.  I felt as if I were a light, translucent, celestial being floating through space.

I spoke of neutrinos. Just last week, new scientific discoveries were made with Neutrino Oscillations.  Two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize (see link). Neutrinos are elementary particles that hold no electrical charge.  They travel at nearly the speed of light and pass through ordinary matter with virtually no interaction.   The discovery made last week is that neutrinos have MASS.  It is fascinating to think that we have particles, carrying mass, coming through us all the time!  What does this mean in terms of Yoga in the Dark??  There is an unknowable field of reality, of mental phenomena within us, between us, around us, going on all the time!  Perhaps Yoga in the Dark brings us closer to experiencing the unknown, the unseen, the yet-to-be-experienced?

Towards the end of the workshop, as the class was in deep relaxation in the deep darkness, I heard Monica calmly say:

We are stardust.

This photo and the top photo of neutrinos found on the web)

(This photo found on the web.)

I invite anyone reading this to leave a comment below.  If you were at the workshop, I invite you to write a little about your experience to share with others, whether it was a positive experience for you or not.  With 23 people at the workshop, my guess is that there is a wide variety of experiences and impressions.


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2 Responses to “Yoga in the Dark”

  1. Bev Gonyea Says:

    Fran, I love to teach a class that begins in light and ends in darkness with a couple candles providing softness. You are offering so many wonderful yoga experiences.😍


  2. frangallo Says:

    Thank you, Bev! In the darkness, one finds inner light!!


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