Dancing in the Woods

I was at a festival this summer and went to a talk by Tom Hodgkinson, founder of The Idler magazine.  He was describing how it was traditional in Britain right up until the 17th Century to have parties in the woods... drinking, dancing, singing, telling stories... essentially going a little bit wild.  Cromwell put an end to this, as it was all too pagan (and too much fun) for his liking and although we reinstated Christmas (which he also banned) after his demise, we never reinstated our regular withdrawal to the woods to party and laugh and dance and let off steam.

That is a shame, because I think that we all need a time to withdraw from our usual lives and to throw away our boundaries sometimes.  It helps us to see what's left when all of the roles we play are removed; it helps to remind us what is really important to us, perhaps to redouble our efforts in certain directions, or to draw back from others.  I think it is a shame when humans have no outlet for their exuberance, when their lust for life is dimmed by daily rigmarole and responsibility and a sense of behaving appropriately.  The party in the woods was permission to behave innappropriately.  It was also a chance to meet new people, and to learn from them; it is too easy for our lives to get smaller, safer and more confined, to party in the woods is to throw open the gates and invite in new experience and a different perspective.

One of my students told me that when she was at a festival this summer, she was in absolute heaven; she found that dancing in a field brought out something wonderful in herself that she had forgotten all about, she said she thought floating around in fields was her natural habitat.  I could just picture her, a flame-haired wood nymph with the biggest smile you've ever seen, dancing in a field, free to express herself in the moment as she wished.

Yoga teaches us how to be quiet and how to focus and how to listen to our innner voices and follow their lead.  But part of our practice should be about getting wild, getting noisy and losing our inhibitions, what Zola called living out loud.  If we spend too much time being 'good', the chances are that we forget who we are underneath; and if we spend too much time being safe and quiet, we might lose the skill of evolving and remaining open to new opportunities.



  1. Why should we only have the opportunity to go "wild" when we are children and then feel we have to "behave" when we are "grown-up"?! V.


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