Why dance is good for your body and soul
In our current world of facebook, twitter, snapchat and tinder, to name just a few, our entire lives are mapped out by social media and virtual interaction. We are living and experiencing the world internally – actually, not even internally covers it – we are living specifically, in our heads. Through our blue screen windows, we pay attention to others, comparing their lives with ours, scrolling through people whinging about their problems, bragging about their happiness, or nosing through the pictures and overshares of other people’s life stories. We care too much about what other people are doing.
What are you doing, for your mind, body and soul?
Are you capturing moments of your life with your camera phone, never fully present in the moment? Are you comparing your life with theirs, seeking their anonymous, silent approval and, perhaps indirectly, bragging about things in your life in an attempt to foster jealousy?
When do you take the chance to connect with you and you alone? When do you take the time to listen to yourself, or your body?
Some people meditate, some practice yoga, some play sports, and some people dance. All of these people are tapping into the crucial combination of mind, body and soul, and you can too. You can turn the radio on right now and start dancing in your underwear, in the kitchen, if you want to. It’s that easy. Try it and see how you feel.
Dancing doesn’t require any training or instructions, we all know how to do it, and dancing alone like this, when no one is watching, is the best way to express yourself. Moving however your body wants to move, responding to its desires, releases your emotional energy and connects you to your whole self. Dancing is the quickest, easiest way to get out of your head and into your body, becoming in tune with what it might be trying to tell you.
Believe it or not, your body has very important messages for you. Memories are stored there, sometimes even trapped there, causing some people physical pain. Movement in its various forms often opens joints, hiding places for emotional blockages, and some have been known to sob through the emotional release that follows. Dance is something we can all do in the privacy of our own homes, to listen to our bodies and keep them healthy. You don’t have to wait for a night out, or when you’re drunk enough, to dance. You don’t even have to be happy. You can use dance to work through times of sadness as well. Moving your body to music is an expression of your inner emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It is a creative process, with the satisfying effects of a physical and cathartic therapy. Getting comfortable with your body and the memories you hold there releases the tension and fear wrapped up inside you. Allow yourself to release the knots of emotion in your muscles.
Memories aren’t usually a verbal experience, they are somatic and sensory. It is not just the mind that requires treatment following hard times, your body might also be screaming for attention. However, traditional therapies are verbal, using language and language alone to communicate with another person. It always comes down to an exchange with others, never attending to the conversation taking place within ourselves. But dance acts like a silent therapy. It gives us a chance to listen to our bodies and be alone within ourselves. While dancing, we can’t take selfies, we can’t step back into the usual role of observer, and we can’t freeze the experience in time by posting it on facebook. We move, we dance, we feel, and for once we actually live in the moment. We spend those moments mindfully, connecting with the energy flowing through us, at one with our minds and bodies simultaneously. Dancing can be a way to ground us within ourselves, to feel at home within our bodies, to feel good or bad, and most importantly allow ourselves to really feel and work through our emotions.
It is no coincidence that unhappy people slouch, move slowly or sometimes become completely immobile. Depression often comes with a long stint stuck in bed, lacking the motivation to move at all. Whereas happy people often have a lot of energy, even excess energy, naturally move more and hold better posture.
In cognitive behavior therapy it is understood that the body and mind are interconnected – thus, changing your behavior will change your mood and vice versa. Even if you don’t feel like it, the best thing you can do is put some upbeat music on, which will instantly change the mood of your environment, then the mood in your mind, foot tapping might follow, then full blown dance moves expressing the emotion as it leaves your body. By combining music with dance, we have the ability to take control of our mood, our emotions and our responses. Using your body to move in a free-flowing fluid motion allows the emotions to be released in a natural and effortless way.
But also, in the simplest of terms, dance is a form of exercise. It is good for your body because movement is good for us – we all know that. It releases endorphins and keeps you healthy. But dancing is such an easy form of exercise, and it connects you to something that other exercise can’t. It connects you to your own rhythms, unique to you, and monitors those rhythms within yourself.
Your immune system needs you to move, it needs your physical movement to pump lymph around your body. Without movement your immune system can’t operate the way it should, not without working overtime. Hence, overweight couch potatoes have unhealthy immune systems, often catching the latest fashionable virus floating around.
Combine that with the usual benefits of exercise and you’re on to a win-win situation. I know exercise can be a pain, what with the journey there, the clothes, the sweatiness and the heat. I don’t put myself through the effort of going to the gym, personally. I’m too lazy to leave the house for exercise, but turning on some music and dancing around at home, in whatever I find myself wearing, is even easier than stretching out on the yoga mat, trying not to go to sleep. Dancing is fun, energizing, and puts a big smile on my face. The second it takes my fancy I can find a good playlist and work it into my day, cleaning up as I wiggle my hips around at home. And those wise old words always occur to me, from the infamous saying that ends with ‘dance as if no one is watching’. I really do.
So pick a moment in every day to let your body dance – however it feels, in whatever way it wants. You will not only nourish your body, but also your mind, and your soul. And if you’re not as lazy as me, maybe join a class and learn how to really dance. Connect with the energy flowing through you, while silently interacting with others. You can be mindful, within your body, and meet new people without the social anxiety of attempting small talk with strangers. There is no room for tension in a dance class when you’re moving all the time, releasing your emotions naturally, effortlessly, leaving behind calm and confidence.