EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE OR COMPLEMENTARY PHYSICAL/CREATIVE PRACTICES
YOGA & PILATES
ARTIST | Cathy Coughlan
‘There is no waiting and no delayed gratification because yoga is both the means and the result, and the seed of all that is possible is present at the very beginning. This experience of stillness is possible in the first ten minutes of your first yoga class. It is possible in this very breath’ Donna Farhi
Officially yoga means union and through daily practice we aim to bring all parts of the self together via one intention. For me, yoga means creating the space to explore my physicality and mentality without having to produce an outcome. The discoveries I have made on the yoga mat, I bring to my daily life. Motherhood has brought me to the mat, so has fatigue, creativity, injury, celebration and the search for relaxation and rejuvenation. It is the place where my learning and teaching practice consolidate and where all explorations eventually come to mean the same thing.
I originally trained through an Ashtanga practice, however I have slowly adapted over the years to include other styles and flows. My classes are tailored to the people I am teaching and I try to let go of rigid sequences to allow for the changes that take place in my own life. Often Pranayama (yoga breathing) is the most valuable of the limbs for me personally. Through the chaos of everyday life, my breath reminds me to be present in my body.
The teachings of Yoga (Asana) and Pilates are intrinsically linked to contemporary dance practice, through the dancer’s use of core strength, flowing movement and breath. I trained as a Yoga/Pilates instructor in 2005, when I experienced huge physical changes after the birth of my first child. I trained as a Pilates mat instructor with Susan Church at Centre Studios (Dublin) in 2005 and as an Ashtanga Yoga instructor the following year with Veronica Larsson, Debbie Corradino and Lisa Wilkinson at The Elbowroom Studios.Both movement systems are essential, in my opinion, to any physical education.
As a teacher I always look for new ways to establish physical confidence and awareness in the bodies I teach. When working in communities these techniques allow for slow and careful development in the ‘non dancer’. I have used both systems in dance classes with older people and with children who are not familiar with the structures of a traditional dance class. My regular studio classes include Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa flow, Hot Yoga, Pilates mat, Prenatal Yoga/Pilates and active birthing.
Since 2005 I have taught Yoga and Pilates, sometimes through dance, in many Dublin based studios including; Dance Theatre of Ireland, Dance Ireland, CoisCeim Dance Theatre, Yoga Dublin, Vocational Educational Colleges (VEC), The Elbowroom Studio’s, Centre Studio’s, Pilates Ireland, The National College of Ireland, Exhale and Melt.
I regularly incorporate yoga systems into my youth projects and kids dance classes. I am currently in the process of developing a somatic movement system for children that can be practiced at home with parental guidance or in the classroom at school. As a mother of four I have seen the benefits of creating physical awareness in early childhood and I hope to bring an element of imagination and creativity to classes where children are experiencing yoga for the first time.
The YOGANIMALS system has been practiced and developed over the last number of years with children from all walks of life. It aims to provide children with a basic understanding of yoga breath (Pranayama), yoga postures (Asana) and relaxation techniques (Savasana). There are 26 postures (one per letter of the alphabet) designed to create a flowing yoga practice that is above all accessible and fun.
Film and screen based technology lends itself to the ‘non vocational dancer’ because, without mastering technique or choreographed sequences, participants can maintain a strong sense of ownership, collaboration and input, and be afforded the time and space to develop a movement practice outside of the traditional performance setting. By removing the obligation to perform or present work of a personal nature in front of a live audience, participants can explore the full range of their physicality and collaborate within a framework that is not dictated by specific outcomes.
This open structure also supports the professional, allowing the dance artist to develop the work in various directions through their response to recorded material. Physical limitations and time constraints often dictate the artistic outcome of professional collaborations in the community, however through the artists edit, presentation or live response, the professional dancer can bring clarity, narrative, context and structure to pedestrian movement, simple choreographed sequences and recorded improvisation.
Productions that have employed this technique include;
2011 | ‘MATHEMATICS’
2012 | ‘ASPECT’
2014 | ‘SOURCE’
ARTIST | Ailish Claffey
With so much time spent indoors I love to get out into nature and run. I practice Chi Running which is inspired by Tai Chi, the Chinese martial art that purports to generate the life energy (chi) flowing throughout your body.
The freedom of running off road surrounded by nature invigorates and never ceases to thrill me. I enjoy the meditative aspect of finding a steady rhythm. My breath and body working together, finding a place of ease and efficiency as my mind clears of all unnecessary noise. I absorb the sheer beauty surrounding me and let go of any task bar placing one foot in front of the other.
This complements my dance practice as keeps me fit, healthy and energised. More than that it creates space, allowing creative ideas to grow and flow.