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My yoga practice is old. Which maybe is why I feel young—well, much younger than 57. My practice goes back
to a book by Yogi Vithaldas, which fell into my hands from a remainder pile more than 30 years ago. As they say,
when the student is ready, a teacher appears.
I’d always trusted in my own divinity, probably the legacy of my Catholic upbringing. But yoga was my bridge from
the monotheistic split of body and soul to the experience of body and soul as one. Yoga helped me locate the Divine
in my own body, in a place beyond word or thought. Over the years, under the guidance of many teachers, I gradually
awakened to my one little body as the universe with all its finite and infinite boundaries. To use a Zen metaphor,
I became like a dewdrop that reflects the entire moon.
Yoga and meditation prepared me in a way that no other discipline could for my passion for Argentine tango, which
I discovered much later in life, under similarly fortuitous circumstances. My well-oiled joints and limber spine
gave me solid physical grounding for a dance that I have come to consider part of my yoga practice. And yoga’s
spiritual centering prepared me for tango’s demand for total presence and surrender of ego.
Argentine tango was born among 19th-century immigrants of their desire for intimacy, or connection, with others,
the way that yoga was born of an urge to connect with the energy of the cosmos. In tango, the leader and the follower
share a fluid balance that emanates from the spine, or axis. When I lean torso-to-torso with my partner and we step
in sync to the music, I leave artificial time behind. My breath is deep, boundless, and effortless; my heart chakra
blossoms like a thousand-petal lotus. The two of us connect, human props for each other, in a rapturous yogic flow.
In Buenos Aires I assisted a teacher who admonished his students, “Not two. One!” His command for dancers to let go
of the idea of a separate Self echoed the instruction of Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, whose “Not two, not one”
similarly taught us not to count the world inside and the world outside ourselves as separate phenomena; in fact, not
to count at all.
If it was on the mat that I first discovered these lessons, experiencing this union on the dance floor has taught me
to be open to finding the Divine everywhere—in actions as humble as peeling potatoes, or as fantastic as walking
a tightrope. In these moments, when you give all of yourself to whatever you’re passionate about—when you find
yourself transported to that inexplicable place of connection and delivered back, renewed—I think you discover
the true meaning of yoga.
Camille Cusumano is the author of Tango: An Argentine Love Story.