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Ballerinas and baby elephants

There’s still magic in the movement of dance as our inner child ballerina flows into our adult vinyasa yogi. By Victoria Jackson

Somewhere in my parents’ house, in those thick family albums everyone used to have before digital photography, there are photos of a very young version of me. They show a chubby little girl, hair tied back in thick bunches, wearing a leotard in a rather unflattering shade of green. I was about four years old and dressed up ready for my dance class. I remember liking ballet more than tap – and not just because the black ballet leotard was a more becoming colour! In my childish imagination, I saw myself in full ballerina glory, a dancing princess, floating gracefully across the stage, all lightness and poise. I thought I was like the little twirling figurine in the musical boxes my friends had, which tinkled out the swan lake theme when you opened the lid.

But I wasn’t like that. Ever. I was more baby elephant than prima ballerina – which I suspect amused my parents greatly – and after that brief brush with dancing most of my childhood was decidedly more tomboyish. I was much more into running around, climbing trees and playing football and I doubt I gave a second thought to those early ballet daydreams.

But life has a strange circularity and early experiences have a way of catching up with us. When I came to practice yoga I turned naturally to the dance-like vinyasa style. I was once again captivated by the flowing grace of the sequences, the seemingly effortless balances, and the creative linking of postures. It’s no coincidence that many of those who favour vinyasa yoga have a background in dancing, gymnastics or choreography.

Although I hung up my dance shoes at the tender age of four and a half, I still enjoy watching ballet and marvelling at how the dancers move. Their perfect grace and lightness in movement is inspirational, and I try to cultivate something of those qualities as I move through my practice, building strength, refining my breath, always seeking the sweet spot between effort and ease. The imagination from childhood days comes back and I smile at how much changes in life, and how much stays the same. The four-year-old me would have enjoyed this practice, I think.

And I confess I do like to pull on a pair of leg warmers when I’m at home. They’re very good for chilly mornings, I say, although really I suspect I’m still harbouring some latent dancer envy. If I could wear a whisp of a gauzy skirt and throw a pirouette into my yoga sequence, I’m pretty sure I would. I do draw the line at an adult version of that green leotard though!

Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher. Read more of Victoria’s OM Lite columns.

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