Meditation and Dance Combine in a New Practice That’s Bringing Mindfulness to Athens
A background in dance, corporate burnout and the discovery of healing via mindfulness led Myrto Legaki to her current, ever-evolving path. The Athens-based founder of Free Movement spent 15 years in management consulting before taking a sharp career turn in favor of her passion: healing through movement. Under the umbrella of Free Movement, Legaki leads meditations and mindfulness-based practices designed to reduce stress and help people develop more awareness of their bodies. While these modalities have taken off in many parts of the world, Legaki is a trailblazer in bringing them to Greece. Read on to learn more about Legaki’s background, philosophy, and how she believes we can learn to heal ourselves by listening closely to the body.
I love that Free Movement is about establishing “mindfulness in motion.” Mindfulness has become very popular in recent years, reaching corporate HR programs and NFL teams alike. Who do you hope to reach or impact?
I believe everyone can benefit from being more present and more mindful! In this fast paced life, there’s a growing need to quiet the mind, find our center and cultivate awareness so we can more easily navigate these changing times. Mindfulness meditation helps us do all that and that’s why its reach is growing. Free Movement is a way of getting back into the wisdom of our body, using movement as the object of our meditation to help us be more mindful. Everyone is welcome, you don’t need to be a dancer or in any way experienced in meditation. Our wonderful community of movers in Athens is very diverse — we have people joining from all walks of life, from a school teacher, a psychotherapist, a lawyer and a retired grandmother, to a judge and a mother with her 4-month old baby.
I’m also passionate about introducing mindful movement in the corporate world. I’ve worked in marketing and management consulting for 15 years and can directly relate to the challenges that people face in these settings. I strongly believe that embodied practices can enhance collaboration, create happier work relationships, lower stress and spark creativity. I have already facilitated moving meditation sessions for companies here in Greece and the impact so far has been very positive.
Tell me a bit about your journey and background. Were you a dancer? Yogi? What inspired your creation?
I’ve always loved movement, in one form or other. I studied ballet for 12 years, at some point I got into to Ashtanga yoga and also danced modern, African, Latin as much as I could in my free time, all while getting a degree in Corporate Finance and then an MBA in Boston. For the next 15 years I worked in management consulting and marketing in NYC and London before returning to Athens. At some point I found myself working 13-hour days, living a fast-paced corporate life between three cities and two continents. I was exhausted and burnt out.
Then as it so happens, during a very challenging period in my personal life, my path led me to Buddhist meditation. I’d been practicing vipassana daily for about 4 years already when I went into my first moving meditation workshop. I fell in love instantly, the depth of my first experience being a radical wake-up call and a cry from the heart. I loved the combination of stillness I found in sitting meditation, with the exhilaration I felt when I was moving consciously. Since then I’ve been traveling around the world to practice Open Floor and 5 Rhythms in intensive training workshops with wonderful teachers, deepening my embodiment practice.
When friends kept asking me to introduce them to what I did that had such a healing impact on me and feeling passionate about sharing the goodness, Free Movement was born. These 75 or 90min mind-body-spirit sessions combine mindfulness, moving meditation drawing upon the Open Floor Movement Practice and elements of systemic psychotherapy (in which I’ve also begun training) with my love for music to cultivate awareness, inspire change and promote inner balance.
How long have you had a space for this?
Free Movement is in its second year and it has been such a beautiful, expansive, heart-opening journey. Witnessing this community of movers come together every week to dance, sweat, connect, share and do the work together has been sheer joy.
I always say that we pay too much attention to the head — when so much wisdom comes from our bodies! So, I love that what you do is about movement.
It’s true that most of us tend to live in our mind buried in our thoughts. Sometimes it seems like we are using our body just to carry around that precious head of ours! We might exercise or do sports, but usually we don’t take the time to actually listen to our body or move consciously with it. But the reality is that we as human beings are born to move — it’s good for us physically, mentally, spiritually. And when we move our body consciously, with awareness, we allow ourselves to really see what has been kept hidden within us: thoughts, feelings, beliefs. It’s the easiest and fastest way to quiet the mind, become more present and get to our truth because the body simply cannot lie. Once we start making friends with that truth, we can embrace life with all its highs and lows and allow for change to happen.
Do you think mindfulness is popular in Greece? I know a lot of yoga retreats are popping up there, but I see a lot of those as marketed to tourists. What do you think?
Mindfulness and meditation, in general, are relatively new here, but as with everything else, Greece will catch up, simply because it’s what’s needed now more than ever.
Mindfulness helps us handle stress and our own demons… do you think the economic situation has created a greater demand for this practice?
Pema Chödrön says “it isn’t’ the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it’s how we relate to the things that happen to us that cause us to suffer”. So there is definitely a greater need now for practices that help us better handle these challenging times and relate to them with more grace.
What do you wish people outside of Greece understood about its culture?
It can be tricky to view a culture from the outside and form opinions, as we tend to fall into the trap of national stereotyping. So I believe that the best way to understand what a country is all about is to spend time with its people, get to have honest, real conversations with Greeks. Or better yet, spend some time traveling our land — you’ll get some good sunshine too!
What advice would you give to younger Greek children and adolescents as they face their future?
It’s what I’ve already started telling my 7-year-old son, albeit in simpler words. Amidst these changing, turbulent times, it’s even more important to cultivate awareness and make an ally of your mind committing to practices that feed not only your body but your mind and spirit too. See change and obstacles as a catalyst for growth, focusing on solutions. Learn to listen to your body and your heart, relying some more on your intuition. Trust that this will always lead you to where you’re meant to go, so you’ll flow amidst change rather than fight it. Be grateful for all your blessings and your sorrows. And lastly, something that is sometimes hard for Greeks to do: cooperate, collaborate, connect — we’re all in this together.
Do you think it’s important for Greek artists, business people, activists etc, whether in Greece or not — to identify with their Hellenism? Why or why not?
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all connected to the land we came from. It represents our roots, it’s what connects us to our ancestors, the people before us who in many ways affect who we are and who we’ll become. And much like trees that cannot blossom unless their roots are strong and properly nurtured, I think it’s important to honor our heritage.
Select photographs by Eleftheria Anthi
This story originally appeared on Delphi Reclaimed, a global hub for trailblazing Greeks.
Originally published at delphireclaimed.com on March 9, 2017.