Yoga Meets Dance: Get Out of the Box (and shake it)

Yoga Meets Dance: Get Out of the Box (and shake it)

It is commonly said (albeit less often practiced) that doing something out of the ordinary—out of your comfort zone—is the key to breaking patterns of momentary monotony that life has a habit of hurling at you. It's also a great way to discover dormant aspects of your self, and awaken the spirit within. The simple act of performing a new physical task can open doors you didn’t even know existed (cue any Doors tune here).

Last week, I found myself tiring of my regular exercise routine. I had been hearing about a class that blended physical activity with spiritual fitness, and decided it was time to break that plane of "the unknown".  The "Yoga Meets Dance" in Kaimuki left me feeling far more then I bargained for. The class began with a series of engaging activities, ranging from calm visualizations, and then segued in to graceful yoga poses, before releasing in to a free style dance circle complete with scarf twirling. The teacher brought things back to earth with some circulatory stretches.

The best part? I truly achieved a thorough workout, yet I didn’t feel for a minute as if I were actually working. The key here (and in life, no?) is to be entertained. The class was small and intimate, which worked out well: Some of us probably looked like cartoon characters skipping through a forest at certain points. But that’s the fun of breaking out of the box, isn’t it?

I was so intrigued by this combination of self discovery and fitness, I had to find out how instructor Leah Dahang came to bring this unique art to Hawaii. Here's an excerpt from our discussion:

Abigail Royce, Wellness Correspondent:  Can you tell me about your dance background?

Leah Dahang:  I have about 15 years of dance behind me, starting from age of 4. I have taken classes in Ballet, Tap, and Jazz (my favorite). I'm currently dancing hula.

Royce:  What inspired you to teach "Yoga Meets Dance"?

Dahang:  I went through a period of little movement during a particularly challenging time a few years back. At a certain point, I knew it was time for change. I developed better eating habits and began running often, as many people do who work full time jobs and can only squeeze in short workouts. I realized that practicing good heath and fitness made a huge turnaround in my life—but I didn't feel as if I had reached my best. 

    I began practicing yoga and meditation. Through it. I quickly realized that I should not only be happy on the outside but also on the inside; having a certain physical appearance meant nothing to me if my heart did not feel happy. It was a time of accepting myself above anything else. This gift of healing was something I wanted to share with others by creating an environment where  people could just be themselves.

    I always believed that music is healing. Whether simply listening, or dancing/moving your body to it. So I trained with Beth Rigby, creator of Yoga Meets Dance(TM). Releasing to the music gave me this sense of freedom, from being silly, smiling, and laughing again—it felt great. I forgot how much music can powerfully open your heart.

    After my training in Sedona, Arizona, I knew it was time to move back to the islands. I wanted to spread that wonderful feeling to the people of my home... of Hawaii.

Royce:  Wow! What do you feel is unique about the techniques?

Dahang:  The fact that Yoga Meets Dance is suitable for all ages and physiques really separates it from any "class" type exercise I've experienced in the past. For example, I teach at Wheeler Elementary to young kids, and have seen the classes really develop a keiki's mode of self expression.

    With adult classes, Yoga Meets Dance provides a combination of relaxation, stretching, free and guided dance movement, along with meditation. It’s a wildly fun aerobic workout that never feels like exercise. It reaches not only to the physical part of ones body but also their mental, emotional, and spiritual part.

Royce:  Why do you think people are drawn to your classes

Dahang:  I believe people are drawn to my classes because I create a fun and safe environment for them. No experience or ability is needed! I welcome everyone: From lovers of yoga to those with two left feet!

Royce: Where do you see Yoga Meets Dance headed? 

Dahang:  Hawaii embodies such diversity, it's a great place to help people visualize their idea of inner peace. The only goal I have in this moment is to share my love for music and movement. That it helps people to heal, be free, and to simply smile

Contact Leah Dahang at; her "Yoga Meets Dance" class currently takes place Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Ki Klub Fitness Studio at 3221 Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki


"It’s a wildly fun aerobic workout that never feels like exercise. It reaches not only to the physical part of ones body but also their mental, emotional, and spiritual part." —Dahang