Dancing Through Life: Aya Dance Meditation with Dani Eastman
“Alive!” responded an attendee, as we circled up at the end of an Aya Dance Meditation gathering. It was a part of the class that I love most, where the blissful bodies that just enjoyed movement meditation together return to a circle and share a part of their experience, should they wish to do so. We were just welcomed to share how we felt and that feeling of true aliveness spread through the space like a wave.
The chorus of “Mmmmhmmm!”s filled the air, heads nodding in agreement.
“It felt like… body freedom,” shared another. Dani Eastman glowed from the inside out as she met eyes with the beautiful souls around the circle, overjoyed with the experience of bringing her dream to others. Bodies shined, not only from sweating together under the late spring sun but from the magical energetic release and sense of community that just occurred.
As we wandered our local nature reserve with our children adventuring along with us, a smile of joyful remembrance spread across her face. “I suppose it all began back when I was… about five or so,” Dani answered, after taking a moment to ponder the question of where her journey to founding Aya Dance Meditation started. She recalled creating dance routines to the albums of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and The Nylons. “That’s all I wanted, to dance and for people to dance with me!” She described the freedom of that little girl dancing, simply following the joy of movement and creating as she went.
Soon as she was able to do so, Dani began taking dance classes, discovering technique and throwing herself into the practice. As she grew, she also grew into the role of helping teach at the studio. Once graduated, however, Dani came upon a challenging time of self-discovery. She was studying at the University of Northern Iowa in the fields of Exercise Science and Psychology, in which she was passionate and eager to learn. Despite exploring these fields all of the way through master’s degrees, something seemed to still be missing.
“I was climbing these ladders. First at the dance studio, then through education and fitness… but once I climbed them I still didn’t feel like I was where I was supposed to be.”
So she packed up her Bronco in the summer of 2001 and went on an adventure of exploration both outward and within. She hiked canyons in Utah and mountains of Colorado, mountaineering with a friend in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming and taking a Wilderness First Responder Course in Bozeman, Montana before venturing north to camp and hike in Canada. Within this trip, Dani wandered into a gym in Nederland, Colorado to use their facilities and was invited to join in a dance class. She was hesitant at first, but decided to take part. This meaningful stop along her path welcomed the reconnection with the way her five year old self knew how to move.
“You know that feeling of irritation? Where you know something isn’t right but you aren’t really sure what’s next? Then after you take the leap, you’re like, ‘Ohhhhhh, THAT’s why!’” Dani described, as we discussed the impact of intuition on our life’s path. We often have the illusion that our intuition will lead with a strong and certain light of clarity, but often it can be this sense of agitation, of feeling unsettled with the knowing that this is no longer where you’re meant to be. Then, on the other side, the overwhelming feeling of, “THIS! This is why and this is what I’m meant to be doing now.”
In 2012, Dani branched away from the formal modalities to instead hold space for one’s body to move organically, giving attendees the freedom to do so. She reflected on pondering, “What happens if we gather and explore and connect not only with each other, but to our own inner knowing?”
And with this, Aya was born.
Aya; the holistic, mindfulness-based dance practice dedicated to connecting you with your body, joy, freedom, authentic self, and intuitive wisdom, all in the supportive embrace of a friendly community.
Aya Dance Meditation may have been felt within a little five year old girl wanting to move with freedom and joy, but it very well may be a 5,000 year old practice. Dani reflected, “It was amazing to see how some of the coolest things that evolved, happened by following that inner knowing. Instead of dancing all facing mirrors with one person in front, beginning in a circle. The gestures of honoring and connecting with everyone together, and creating pause to do so for ourselves. The way the map of the class has evolved.”
There is something primal and ancestral about the experience. The gathering of open-hearted individuals, the intentionally chosen songs. The circling up to share and honor one another’s experience. The dancing from heart and soul through the body. It all feels right, as though this is precisely what our society has been aching for.
“What is it you hope someone feels when they experience Aya?” I asked, as our children delighted in the refreshingly cool water at the end of our little hike.
She paused, breathing deeply before she responded. “Self-acceptance, coming home to your body and learning to appreciate and respect… and eventually befriend and love yourself. And that anyone can do it! Anyone who feels the desire or thinks it sounds fun! And if it doesn’t feel like that for you, that you keep pursuing that thing. The thing that lights you up and brings you joy and awakens what’s inside of you.”
The beautiful thing about her response is that this feeling goes beyond enjoying an Aya dance class. The feeling she described is precisely what one feels encouraged to do, simply by being in Dani Eastman’s presence.
Enjoy a beautiful gallery of photos capturing what Aya dance feels like in the June issue of Heal & Rise Magazine by clicking here, and connect with Dani and explore more about Aya and current offerings at AyaDance.com!