Dance therapy addresses all levels of being: physical, mental, spiritual. When one dances, it encourages the body to get back to its natural state
Ever wonder how infants twirl around and manage some really complex moves, involuntarily, without any formal training while their brain development is still in the process? Adulthood thrusts upon us, among many things, a sense of self consciousness that makes us very conscious of our bodies, thanks to society’s conditioning on being ‘proper’.
Our body tells us when it needs food or water or rest or treatment. Coming to treatment, especially psychological, it is important to note that dance is naturally therapeutic as it addresses all levels of the being: physical, mental (creativity, looking at a problem in various ways without judgment), and spiritual. Swati Mohan, founder and director, Danza Performing Arts, believes, “Dance helps channel blocked energies into the system, improving circulation, which, in turn, helps you feel lighter instantly. Dance training helps the muscles stretch and mobilise the joints. The lactic acid built up in the muscles eases and synovial fluid in various joints begin to flow easy, making the body feel relaxed, easing pains and hence lifting the mood.”
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When one dances, it encourages the body to get back to its natural state of being, with bones stacked, head relaxed on the top of the spine, ankles suspended and knees ahead of the heels. This leads to good posture, which is the single-most important action one can do to relieve oneself of unnecessary pain and problems later. It helps one strengthen the muscles and hold the joints better, causing easy day-to-day movement.
Dance is an opportunity to improve one’s focus as one learns steps or follows movement sequence. “We begin to think creatively, drop judgment, play and feel good about ourselves. It helps the brain tap into the creative side. One can heal through one’s own creative expression. Also, the spinal fluid moves when we work with spine articulation, which helps at much deeper level. It addresses the complex energy system of chakras, helping the state of mind. Personally, dance has helped me grow spiritually because of all the above reasons,” says Mohan.
Dance as a meditation practice works on a two-pronged approach: It addresses body and the mind at the same time. In Mohan’s experience, awareness is the key. “In my classes, as an exercise, I invite students to play ‘speak what you see’, — the task is to speak non-stop what you see , in any language, not worrying about grammar, not giving the brain a moment to think, just ‘stream the consciousness’ in that sense. Being in the present moment is healing and dance offers that opportunity with a play of improvisation, connections with others and one’s own self,” she says.
Dance training takes care of psoas (the only muscle that connects the leg to the spinal column and is often referred to as the muscle of the soul), along with helping one to connect to one’s creative side and have fun. Dance aerobics is another example. It is considered the most stress-relieving exercise. Dance certainly provides a nourishing environment for the brain to change.
For dancer, actor and choreographer Gilles Chuyen, dance truly connects him to the physical body in its entirety, becoming aware of every muscle and tissue, and, therefore, becoming aware of any possible tense areas. “The first step towards healing is to recognise where the problem stems from. When I dance, I bring energy into my physical body and, by way of movements, it helps burn extra fat and stale residues from my system. As an exercise, there is a feeling of joy and celebration that boosts the emotional being, thus making it an important form of therapy,” says Chuyen, who has been teaching dance meditation since 2000, and feels that dance has an amazing power to integrate mind, body and soul into a stream of energy.
Dance and whirling are both are physical activities, but whirling like mandala (a circle within circles) brings a deep state of balance, stability, strength, and silence within. Sufi whirling danseuse Zia Nath, a therapist of bio-dynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST), who recently conducted a sacred whirling workshop at Global Festival of Spiritual Sciences, Bengaluru, shares, “Whirling is a beautiful technique that helps us move into meditation easily. It is all about alignment, the balance of mind and body, stillness and motion — the continued practice of this over time brings an inner alignment in the body, as well as a deeper equilibrium. This can have very therapeutic benefits for the practitioner of whirling. In my workshops, I have supported students with problems of vertigo, depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, and other imbalances of the nervous system.” BCST therapy involves the study of anatomy and physiology, the musculo-skeletal system, the brain and central nervous system, the physiology of trauma and it’s recovery. And, BCST therapy stresses on whirling as a beautiful way to bring equilibrium to the nervous system. “If we are stressed out and overwhelmed, whirling can calm our nerves and lighten our spirit. If we are tired and lacking vitality, this meditation can revitalise our system,” adds Nath.