I am going to make a confession; I’m a Nutcracker-aholic. With the exception of my infant years, I have seen a production of the Nutcracker every year of my life. I own three different CDs of the Tchaikovsky score, and I pop them into the CD player in my car the day after Thanksgiving and listen to them religiously until December 25th. (I may even throw a few cuts into my yoga class playlists this December.)

My husband can’t believe that myself, my mother, and the other female members of my family have made it a tradition to go see the Nutcracker every holiday season. He asks me how I can keep going to see the same show, especially since I know how it’s going to end. I try to explain to him that the production is different every year, and that it’s no different than him watching a bunch of football games every weekend; there are always new players, new uniforms, and new plays.

My favorite part of the ballet is at the end of the first act, when Clara is swept away with the Nutcracker Prince to a magical winter wonderland. As the blizzard of ballerinas begin their beautiful dance, there is something about the music that brings out my inner ballerina geek. My heart swells up in my chest, and I get all verklempt as the first snowflakes start to fall from the sky. Without fail, I am moved to tears each and every performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcxixZjeulE

This year as I watched the Ballet Theatre of Ohio‘s production (which rocked), I couldn’t help but notice how many ballet moves are similar to yoga asanas. Take a few standing splits, a dancers pose, and toss in flowing warrior arms and a leap, and you’ve got yourself a mat-worthy ballet performance. Next time you’re in tree pose or any challenging balance pose, just think about adding the complexity of wearing ballet pointe shoes to it, and I bet all of a sudden it will feel a whole lot easier.

No matter what frame of mind I’m in, seeing the Nutcracker always puts me in the Christmas spirit, and this year it even cast a little spell on me. Yeah, just like Clara, the night I saw the Nutcracker, I had my own special dream and I’d like to share the dream story with you. I’m calling it…

The “Yogacracker”

Many moons ago, a young-at-heart, redheaded woman named Maria received the gift of yoga. She started taking classes at her local studio and immediately fell in love with the practice. To her it was an extension of the ballet training she received as a child, and she felt discipline and grace return to her each time she came to her yoga mat. As she went through her vinyasa flows, it felt as if she were creating a beautiful dance.

Of course, a villainous force had to come into her life to take away her love of yoga, but the villain was not the Mouse King. It was the equally evil daily grind of work, stress, and obligation that caused her to roll up her yoga mat and fall into a deep sleep.

While she laid in sleep, a dream came to Maria. She awoke to a fantastical world of flexibility, armed with an unlimited yoga class pass good at any yoga studio in the world. Even when she had a busy schedule, there always was time in her day to attend a yoga class.

The dream took her and her yoga mat on a first-class journey across the globe to practice the many different styles of yoga. From Iyengar in India, Ashtanga in Australia, Hatha in Hawaii, and a little hot Bikram in Boston to Vinyasa in Vancouver, she followed it all up with a little yoga holiday in Bali. Each land she visited granted her the opportunity to study with great yoga teachers like Indra Devi, Geeta Iyengar, Judith Laseter, and Donna Farhi.

Dreaming of Some Tropical Beach Yoga in 2012

And the costumes! Forget about tutus, she traded those in for skeggings and was decked out in the finest black stretchy pants, vibrant colorful tank tops, and crowned with funky headbands.

A variety of sugarplum treats were available to her wherever she ventured, and she could eat whatever she wanted, because that’s made possible in a Yogacracker world.

Like any good trip, there always comes a time when you have to return home and back to reality. Before I knew it, the sound of my husband’s snoring awoke me from my blissful downward dog dreams.

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but this one will always stay with me, and it’s made me realize that I already live in a Yogacracker world. I can always make the time to fit yoga in my schedule, I can practice all kinds of different yoga styles right here in my hometown of Cleveland, and I can study with amazing yoga teachers that come to Northeast Ohio (thank you Max StromRodney Yee, Kathryn Budig, and Cora Wen). And, if I save my money and dream big, I can even fly off to exotic locales some day and study yoga in the places I dreamed about.

As for the sweets, well, I don’t think I’ll be able to gorge on chocolate and marzipans like I did in the dream, but I have to admit that the weekly yoga regime does wonders for keeping the middle-age spread under control.

I’m going to strive to take the magic and wonder of the Yoga-Nutcracker into my life. Maybe the reason why I get misty eyed during the dance of the snowflakes is that it makes me realize how beautiful winter can be. Instead of focusing on how cold I always am and worrying about what the road conditions are going to be like, I need to fill myself up with the beauty of this season, to have a child-like sense of wonder and to never give up the ability to dream.

Just as a ballet performance can transport you into another world, let your practice of yoga transport you to a beautiful blissful state each and every time you come to the mat. Don’t forget to embrace that tiny dancer inside your soul and dream big.

Who wants to go to Bali with me in 2012?  Please leave a comment and let me know where your Yogacracker dreams are taking you!

Christmas Tree Image: Robert Proksa