Breathing Into Dance - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Breathing Into Dance

Breathing Into Dance

Published September 9, 2013

RX Beckett

In the cool dimness of KEX’s Gym & Tonic room, we stand in a large circle with eleven people, slowly breathing with our eyes closed. Frankincense gently wafts through the air, helping to ease the mind and the senses. Meditation coach Tristan Gribbin connects the circle, gently guiding the group with her soothing voice as a new age-electronica song plays in the background.
As we begin to relax deeply, Tristan encourages us to move, allowing our bodies to flow naturally along with their breath and the music. This is Dance Meditation, a form of deep relaxation that combines the practices of Modern Meditation and breathwork.

Spiritual island
Originally from Palo Alto, California, Tristan has been on a serious spiritual path for over a decade. In the mid-‘90s, she met and married an Icelandic man with whom she began to further explore meditation and spirituality. After spending eleven years together in the States, the two returned to Iceland and Tristan felt a push to impart her knowledge on others.
“I got an offer from Ba›húsi› to teach there and then doors started flying open,” she says. “My focus now is almost completely on meditation. I feel deeply fulfilled and gratified by it.” In addition to teaching at Baðhúsið, she teaches at Dansverkstæðið, holds annual meditation retreats at Sólheimar and, since early July, holds weekly Dance Meditation sessions at KEX.
While the practice of meditation goes back thousands of years and covers a cornucopia of methods and meanings, the form that Tristan teaches is specifically set for the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century. “There is so much going on in our daily lives and we are constantly flooded with information,” Tristan says, “Modern Meditation is very powerful as there is a real transformative energy to it. The breathwork also helps to set the mind on an inward journey.”

Surrender to your breath
This emphasis on the self and the breath also makes it universally practicable by anyone. “There is no specific faith attached to it, but there can be if one wants or needs it,” Tristan says. The only emphasis at her sessions is on Icelandic music, putting artists like GusGus, Hjaltalín, Retro Stefson, Ásgeir Trausti, Sigur Rós and Ólöf Arnalds on the playlist. She will throw in some mainstream pop too if the mood should strike.
Breathing is also the source of the dancing. Unlike traditional meditation, which is mainly about stillness and inner focus, modern meditation encourages any movement that naturally results from taking deeper and deeper breaths. It begins with slow, long, circular breathing, eventually allowing the mind and body to release and flow along. “It’s about letting people tune into their bodies and finding where they need to stretch,” Tristan says.
If any of this sounds too vague, taking part in the experience of surrendering to the power of one’s breath and body makes it all crystal clear. Both Grapevine photographer Magnús Andersen and I arrived with an enthusiasm for dance, a beginner’s knowledge of meditation and the need to cut out halfway through the session. But two hours later—after stretching, shaking, head banging, screaming into handtowels, and relaxing—we were both still there—still standing in a large circle, our eyes and our minds wide open.

Dance Meditation classes takes place at Kex Hostel’s Gym & Tonic every Monday from 18:00 to 20:00. Admission fee is 2,000 ISK.

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