Updated: Feb 6, 2019
How this physical practice is a tool for spiritual development.
Sat Yoga recently had the honor of hosting Mestre Marcelo Pereira, a capoeira master, as a participant in the 10-day Immersion program. Mestre, which means Master in Portuguese, shared an informative presentation with the community on the practice of Capoeira and gave a basic but challenging class for those yogis interested in experiencing the game.
“Ginga conmigo!” Marcelo encouraged that afternoon, “Sway with me!” Ginga is the term for the fundamental movement in Capoeira, a complex, physical art form that blends martial arts, dancing, singing, and drumming into a challenging, physical play.
In his Friday night presentation, he shared his perspective on how this Afro-Brazilian tradition can be experienced as a portal to higher consciousness. We were excited for an opportunity to put this theory into practice! He had warned us ahead of time, but we were not prepared for the hour of sweaty, playful movement that calls for constant eye contact with your partner but, paradoxically, no physical contact—a martial art that practices ahimsa! Instead, Capoeiristas cultivate an exchange of energy between players: the individual forms of the game merge and emerge into a third form that creates an entryway into complete presence.
Developed in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century, the name “Capoeira” is a reference to its origins in slave culture and signifies “Second Growth Jungle”, the forested areas in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide, a place where they could live un-impinged upon by the system. For slaves, the practice was akin to an open secret—a form of training to keep the mind, body, and spirit strong while being beautifully disguised as a dance. There are many parallels in Capoeira between practice to the point of mastery and the pathways that lead to deeper dimensions of spiritual embodiment. And eventually, like so many pathways to higher consciousness, Capoeira was criminalized and the practice forbidden. But, over time, it has reemerged, been legalized, and developed into the second most popular sport in Brazil. It is now a growing phenomenon across the globe, and restored to the form of liberation through movement that it was intended to be.
“It’s not wrong...it’s just another way to play!” Marcelo assured us several times throughout our practice that afternoon as he guided us through movements, asked us to ginga with him and watched our best beginner efforts. His instructions were to make it simpler, although not necessarily easier, as Capoeira is not just a physical practice but an exercise in perception and an opportunity to develop intelligence and sensitivity.
Only those dedicated completely to their practice, fully consciousness and fully competent, will progress on to the final stages of mastery, not unlike the practice of Yoga.
We finished the class by saying “Axé,” a West African Yoruban term that is the name for power/energy, the force that is present in every being and every thing, similar to the term Prana in Sanskrit and Yogic traditions.
As we caught our breath, we took the moment to recognize that life force energy that moves through us all, witnessing ourselves and each other as divine dancers of the Ananda Tandava, the Dance of Bliss. The Ananda Tandava is the theme of our upcoming New Year Meditation Retreat and this introduction to Capoeira has been a great reminder of our ability to shift into higher states of conscious through Divine Play, or Lila. In the end, it’s all part of the game.