Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of taking Legs Malone’s “Healing Your Relationship With Your Body” workshop. Among many other things I gained from that class, I was really taken by Legs breathing. Through out the class, she maintained a yogic breath that she would breathe more deeply in to as we delved further in to painful or difficult subjects. It was a supportive breath. It was a breath that let us, her students, know that she was listening. Simply listening. Free from judgment, free from fear. Just listening.
Burlesque dance moves most deeply from the hips and pelvis, so as I have been afforded more and more wonderful opportunities to teach, I have worked hard to create a sequence of stretches to open each class with that ensure open hips. And, equally as important, an open heart.
Legs’ influence has remained with me and subsequently, as I opened my class with a deep stretch, I began to close my classes with a simple breathing exercise. Myself and each student sit comfortably cross-legged on our yoga mats and I invite them to close their eyes, lower their heads, place their hands upwards on their knees. I give little more instruction than that. Occasionally an affirmation to focus on, but usually I ask them to simply take a deep breath, feel their lungs expand on the intake, then empty on the exhale. Repeat. We sit. Music playing softly in the background. The squeak and thump of practicing pole dancers on the other side of the studio. We breath as individuals. We breath together.
After a minute or so, I’ll ask the students to bring their breathing back to their natural cycle, to slowly bring their awareness back in to the room and to raise their heads and open their eyes when they are ready. In the 18 months or so I have been closing my classes this way, I have found that there is frequently at least one woman who opens her eyes to find tears rolling down her face.
Initially when this would happen, I would feel concerned. When you care for someone, as you do for your students, your reaction to their sadness, pain or frustration is to tell them it’s ok. To make it better. To stop them feeling that way. One thing I have learned is to let them feel that way. Offer to talk, offer to listen, but don’t invalidate what they are experiencing.
I have learned that these tears are infrequently tears of sadness. They are tears of release, of joy, of retrospection. And every time they flow I am honoured to have created a space where women can breathe.