Trance-dances connect to roots


Friday nights at Laughing River Yoga are not spent simply working through traditional poses fixed to a mat. Instead, the studio is filled with glistening bodies dancing wildly in search of our earliest tribal ancestors, who gained spiritual rejuvenation through ecstatic dance and chant.


From 5:45 to 7 p.m. each Friday at the Winooski studio, Jane Jarecki Lanza, co-founder of Liberate Festival and the Burlington Yoga Conference, teaches Yoga Trance Dance.


Developed by yogi and activist Shiva Rae, Yoga Trance Dance combines yogic meditation and movement in a culminating experience of euphoria.


“Yoga awakens the breath, fluidity of the spine and inner power. Free-form trance dance cultivates natural movement, intuition, and creativity,” according to Lanza’s blog.  


The class leaves you sweaty and exhausted but in a good, detoxifying way, junior and certified yoga instructor Cat Looke said. It is quite opposite from what many college students may have felt Saturday morning.


Though last Friday’s class welcomed only three participants, this allowed for a deeply personal experience, with less distance been student and teacher.  


Laughing River’s studio in the Chace Mill provides a communal meditative space, enhanced by the soft mumblings of the Winooski River flowing a few feet away.


The class begins slowly with basic postures on the mat. As the ambient music gained energy and vitality, the movement of each body reacted similarly. With Lanza’s instruction, hands and feet shifted off the mat and around the room.


“Keep moving,” Lanza said. “You can do it.  Keep moving.”  


The continuous movement of life animated by prana, or the life force, was reflected in the fluid, motile postures.  


What was yoga appeared to be dance, and what was dance was a physical meditation. Each person cultivated movement from within.


“Trance yoga helped me unleash my playful spirit … to reconnect with my tribal instincts. I felt more at ease,” Lanza said. “I felt very free.”


The climax of the class arose with expressive tribal music. Lanza asked each student to shake.  


Starting with the wrists, each part of the body was soon uncontrollably shaking. “Our ancestors used to do this for days,” she shouted. “We are going to do this for six minutes.”  


The eastern inspired rhythms and instruments inspired languid motions from legs and arms.  Inhibitions were discarded by the door in Lanza’s studio, where she requests “No judgment of yourself or others.”  


Like tribal peoples before us, the human body infected with dance was utilized as a vessel for transcendence.


Breathing throughout each movement as in traditional styles of yoga was encouraged.  


The session ended in shavasana — a corpse-like pose on the mat — and quieter tones of trance like “Just Breathe” by Telepopmusik.


Daily practitioners of yoga and those curious to understand the evolving spiritual discipline of yoga can look for Yoga Trance Dance and more at Laughing River Yoga.