You enter a beautiful room of hardwood floors and mirrors, carrying your troubles and ‘to do’ lists. Sometimes you are carrying an overwhelmed mind and a heavy heart. Somehow, something wonderful, ordinary and magical transpires during your time there. An hour later, you exit this same space feeling revived, refreshed, in balance and somehow more peaceful. You’ve just spent the last hour engaging the mind, body and spirit in one of the oldest forms of human culture, ritual and celebration—dance.
When life feels overwhelming or difficult to digest, dance can be one of the healthiest outlets people can find that allows them to engage, energize and release tension—physically, mentally, emotionally and otherwise. Feeing your body’s energies through both creative and structured movement can be a powerful tool for healing.
Watching others dance can be visually captivating. It is one of the most powerful forms of expression because it uses the human body as its vehicle. All cultures have expressed their values and aesthetics through this medium for as long as human beings have inhabited the earth. As Gerald Jonas proclaims in Dancing, the Pleasure, Power and Art of Movement, dance encompasses “courting and courtly dances; wedding dances and funeral dances; dances of healing and dances of instruction; dances to arouse, amuse or uplift onlookers; dances to usher in the seasons and dances that appeal directly to the Gods; dances that tell stories and dances that seek to create a formal beauty that cannot be put into words”.
On a basic level, dance has been proven to:
• Improve conditioning of the heart and lungs
• Increase muscle strength and bone density
• Improve right/left brain connectivity and function
• Ward off Alzheimer's disease and dementia
• Improve self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image
• Help in weight management
• Improve posture, grace and flexibility
• Improve social skills
Dancing requires that you stay present which helps clear the mind and enables focus and concentration. The rhythmic movements of dance cause the brain to naturally release mood lifting neurotransmitters to bring them to a healthy balance.
Beyond these amazing physical health benefits, dance is a powerful, therapeutic art form that sets people free on a psychological and spiritual level as well as the physical level. The dancer experiences a stillness of the mind through concentration and selfobservation that can be likened to a serene sea. Physical tensions begin to melt away and there is a sense of expressing oneself without boundaries. As muscles, mind and breath rhythmically synchronize, the dancer is present, flowing and allowing newness in many forms to be born within.
In a dance class, you can find yourself relating to a piece of music or choreography that speaks to you of a time in your life that needs process or healing. You may tip toe or dive right in to these precious moments with self and spirit. It is a safe space to explore, free and transform yourself to any capacity you are able. No words are needed. You, the music and the sweat on your brow inhabit a sacred space where the body tells tales of bliss, passion, heartache, grief and wonder.
Dance for Everyone
With so many benefits from the physical to the spiritual, why not get out and dance? It is a healthy addition to anyone’s weekly activities. There is a dance for everyone, whether it is ballroom, salsa, hip-hop, ballet, contemporary, belly dancing or one of the many other cultural forms.
Beyond its physical benefits, dance can be looked at as a cross cultural mode to express and explore our life force energy as a means of making sense of our lives and our world and to revel in the gifts that the human body has to offer.
Get out and find your dance outlet. It is time spent that you will not regret.
Allison Pagano is a local dancer, teacher and choreographer with a full background in the healing arts. She is the creator of the Embodied Goddess Dance Project and she teaches contemporary modern dance for adults at Nyack Yoga. To learn more about Pagano visit Awakening-Into-Wellness.com.