“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”~Washington Irving
Groundlessness is a concept that Pema Chodron discusses a lot in her wonderful writing and talks. It refers to shunyata, or the buddhist concept of emptiness. This is not emptiness in the sense that nothing is there. It is emptiness in a sense that nothing, including ourselves, is solid and predictable. This is not some myth or made up story to get through hard times, it is actual reality. We can test it and see that our results are always the same. Nothing on this earth, in this universe, stays the same.
For me the vinyasa practice embodies the sadhana of opening to groundlessness. We traverse from pose to pose with skill because we have studied the postures themselves. We prepare ourselves well for that journey by understanding alignment and actions in each pose. But what about the spaces between the postures? In the process of transforming our body from form to form can we be as present with the spaces between, those inevitable areas of groundlessness?
As I prepare for my workshop today, I am reminded of this beauty and elegance of attention. Between each shape is a multitude of possibilities and that wide openness is the very same thing as shunyata. Emptiness actually means that anything is possible.
I look forward to sharing this work with you today and my hope is that it inspires ever more practitioners to take “vinyasa” beyond the athleticism of achieving great stunts and many chaturangas and into the space of shunyata. Skill in action. Opening to possibility. Letting go of where we fixate and seeing that it is wide open.
See you there.
this is what happened when i played on the ropes today! i found an amazing psoas stretch that got me where nothing else seems to get. so good. make sure to use your arms as leverage on the wall to turn the torso away from the leg in extension.
gahh. so good.
Dedicated to my Teacher Trainees…
At night make me one with the darkness.
In the morning make me one with the light.
Don’t pray for the rain to stop.
Pray for good luck fishing
when the river floods.
Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieve to see your house catch fire.
Put your hands into the mire.
They will learn the kinship
of the shaped and the unshapen,
the living and the dead.
When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.
When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.
Let me wake in the night
and hear it raining
and go back to sleep
Make the human race a better head.
Make the world a better crop of ground.
Invisible/Visible (feat. Bobby Mcferrin & Cesar Camargo Marino)
The gentle spring rain permeates the soil of my soul.
A seed that has lain deeply in the earth for many years just smiles.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Perhaps you have been wondering why things have been so quiet on the Breakti front lately. There are several reasons for that. I am writing today, at a crossroads, as I prepare to let go of the two weekly Breakti classes that Om Factory has been so gracious to let me try on at their studio. It is time, for many reasons, to let them go.
As I always imagined it to be, Breakti has become larger than me. I never wanted it to be the Anya Show and it initially had become that more than I ever planned - perhaps a necessary step in the process, but it certainly wasn’t my vision of what was ultimately possible. What is amazing is that now there are many teachers out there who have trained with me who can represent this work in some way. Some teachers, like Elisa Mangubat, are working with teens and doing incredible things with the meeting points of hip hop culture and yoga. Other teachers, like Sasha Nelson, are integrating their knowledge of holistic nutrition, wellness and coaching into workshops and retreats that span mindful movement styles and self-awareness on many levels. Angelina Borodiansky incorporates what she has learned into her aerial classes incredibly skillfully. Many other teachers who have trained with me incorporate the work in their own ways. That is amazing. It is awesome. It is what I always wished for the work. And I will continue to mentor them along in that process, however what I recognize is that the capacity for me to mentor them on their own journey is dependent on me letting go of part of my own journey, in some ways.
In the same breath, I have struggled to make Breakti a codified practice and have realized that it isn’t. Break”dance” is a freestyle dance. Yoga is a freeform practice that meets you where you are and is meant to be healing and connective on every level. Hip hop as a movement has evolved, devolved, drifted and meandered in its path. All of these forms influence who I am and what I teach and so every time I came up with “set sequences”, “set rules”, etc. for the teachings, my own practice would ultimately supersede those structures and I would find myself leaving them behind. In the times that I have tried to force the expected into a practice that could not, should not encourage expectation, I have been left with frustration and a heavy heart.
Ultimately I am working with a practice that is continuously evolving, constantly re-integrating and reforming itself. In other words, it is alive. To codify the form could perhaps make me a lot of money and help me to easily teach others to teach it as one simple style of class, taught in rote fashion and let that be enough. But it wasn’t ever enough. The trainings I have given have been similar but also vastly different. The material was in many ways the same but even within a span of six months the Breakti practice had changed enough that I was teaching different things to new trainees. I recognize this is a part of every good practice and every good teacher, but for the companies that wanted to make money off of me and Breakti, it can’t work like that. And for branding and marketing purposes, it can be hard to pin down the “look” of something that seems to shift as soon as you try to fix anything about it. I have outgrown the “get down in your dog” tagline of five years ago. I have outgrown the urban influenced ganesha logo that still represents this class. I still love those things and the thought and work that went into them, but they don’t speak to what I am doing now. The more I have tried to rebrand myself, the more I question why? In another five years I will simply be in the same boat again. So I’ve decided to take it from a different perspective.
Over time I have realized that Breakti has become just another iteration of what yoga is. It is a yoga practice, through and through. There is nothing flashy, trendy or incredibly innovative about it, except that I am constantly present with what I am teaching, constantly looking at my own mindful movement practice and seeking out what is valuable and potent and offering that out, often straying out of the realm of traditional yoga through the influence of other forms I study which inspire me; breaking and contemporary dance, therapeutic body work, and more. I suppose this could be considered “innovative”, but I also believe that weaving the tapestry of our livelihood through felt experience should be the norm of yoga teachers everywhere. No matter what we teach, what style or form, we should always be trying it on and questioning what is working, what is skillful; what can be incorporated and what can be let go. Ultimately, all of the scaffolding that we create for ourselves and in which we learn must also be taken down at some point in order for the inherent grace and beauty of the practice to spill forth.
What I teach in Breakti-labeled classes is what I teach everywhere - it influences all of the yoga I teach and it always will. There are certainly some unique and slightly different postures and transitions you may not find in other teachers’ classes, but movement is archetypal and the internet leaves nothing to guessing should you wish to include breakin movement in your yoga classes. How I teach everything is my very own method, taken from a myriad of other methods that work well and are skillful, put together in a way that makes sense in my body, in my heart and mind. At the same time, I continue to study. I continue to be curious about where my blind spots are and I continue to bring what moves me into my classes in a way that connects with people. That is Breakti. That is also yoga. Yoga is Breakti. Breakti is yoga.
So what’s in a name? This name Breakti has both haunted me and cheered me on. At first it was a meeting point between bhakti and breakdance; still two things I hold dear to my heart and which influence me in numerous ways. My dear and longtime friend and former Breakti DJ affiliate, Ben “Scribe” Goldfarb came up with the name and it was perfect for the time. It was a perfect meeting of where I stood at that moment. It still resonates in many ways, especially for the incredibly fun and bhakti-filled workshops I still lead and for the amazing work myself and others are doing with Breakti Kids. But somehow the name has also limited me. It has confused participants or would-be participants at times , and it has alienated perhaps more than included for one reason or another.
In some ways Breakti has defined me in the same ways that I have defined it, and yet both the practice and I are so much more than the limitations that can be imposed by being viewed as one thing and one thing only. Without going into much detail, I will say that I have felt confined by the image that the Breakti practice has led others to project onto me and I’m ready to shed some of that. I am also ready to turn my attention onward and encourage the teachers I have trained to grow in their own way. Maybe one of them will take Breakti and run with it, and maybe no one will. But what is important to me is that they all feel supported and I haven’t had the time or energy to give them time even when they asked for it. That all changes now.
I began this letter by stating that this work is so much larger than me, and it is. It will continue to grow in many ways. I will continue to teach Breakti workshops, and am currently working on a Breakti Kids training; I know other teachers have some really cool stuff up their sleeves as well. But no longer do I wish for it to be the solo Anya Porter Show. It was certainly fun for a while, but it gets lonely going solo. Breakti is about community. It is about connection, integrity, and acting from a place of skillfulness and realness. It is certainly about living your potential but it is also about lifting others up along the way. That hasn’t been happening the way I have wanted it to happen, so here starts a new era.
I want to thank so many people who have supported me in this process. I can’t even begin to list you all. I hope to see you in class sometime soon, or at a workshop or training. Until then… keep it real.
From the Bodhicharyavatara (Way of the Boddhisattva)