Unique friendships have continued to provide me with much needed connection, people that I have a bond with, where I may not see them for many months, sometimes even years, but when I do it is as if I never was away from them. I often say when I am teaching the weekly class, that we take each other home with us when we leave. And this for me is the truth.
It is now 11 years since I first stepped into the Dance arena, I was reminded of this today when my dear friend Monica Nataraj (someone who I see seldomly but is ever present in my heart) sent me something that I am working with and that is finding some love and compassion for myself. My life has been one of deep transformation. Monica was the first person who helped me to see that Dance is an extraordinary part of life, That life is a beautiful Dance, and those who dance live life differently ( not worse or better ) just differently.
What is interesting for me is that through these deep ongoing movements, there are still many patterns of care-taking and lack of care for myself that I am often in a struggle with. I find it much easier to engage with others to support them and make a commitment to meeting them for say meditation, but when I know I would like to do this for myself and there is no-one around I often welch on myself and give up. Just at this point of giving up, there could be a moment when I think I could ask for help, get support, reach out to the amazing people I know, that would support me if I would just have the courage to just ask.
There is an exercise in Biodanza, where we do just that, a generative posture for asking, it is no wonder to me that I find this one so hard to do. In my training, I found this excruciating, and so the journey never ends, I keep showing up with all my foibles.
It is my 60th birthday soon, and I had never danced until I was in my late 40's, I had this story that I was too big to dance. Makes me smile when I think of how I throw myself around the dance floor now. But Dance has been so much more than this for me, it has brought me completely into my body sensations in a way that I never thought possible, it has helped me connect, lean on others ( even though I still find this very hard ). It helps me stay present in each moment, the body is such a truthful barometer, nothing can be hidden when we give ourselves to Dance.
I hope you dance, it really is never to late, from humble beginnings to teaching, to absorbing, to loving the people who I dance with regularly, to the most profound friendships I have made on this journey. Learning is in every moment of dance, no matter what modality it is, everyone will benefit from a bit of music and some dance. It changed how I felt, what I thought, it tenderised me, made me more honest, more open. more loving and less judgemental.
Photograph by Hanna Jacobs
One thing I have learned is that none of this stress supports us as humans. Yes, we have to pay our bills, be accountable and responsible, but worrying makes no difference or sense at all.
The first step toward letting go of stress is to know that you are carrying it. Pay attention to how you feel and learn to read the signals that you are allowing work to wind you up or wear you down.
I recently read an article about the benefits of dance, people who dance together regularly are less likely to have dementia in the later years one study suggests. There are so many positive outcomes for those of us that get on the dance floor.
Health benefits of dancing
Dancing can be a way to stay healthy for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:
- improved condition of your heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased physical confidence
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- better social skills.
With so many positive outcomes, I wonder why we would avoid getting to a local event and dancing our socks off. I know for me that when I dance, I forget everything, my body takes its own route and as I know my body never lies, it is a speaker of truth, so whether I am feeling sad, alone, angry, stressed, happy or creative my body will bring forwards its own movements to release any emotions I have been ignoring. Better out than in..
Finding the courage to start your dance journey takes one step, but truly if we plunge in we will quickly see the benefits. so if you do nothing else this autumn, I hope you DANCE.
In October last year I attended an 8 weeks course to learn to facilitate DANCEmandala. The training takes place in the the most beautiful setting of the Yoga Tree in the heart of Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. I have danced Biodanza and 5 Rhythms for many years, so I was interested to find out about this new movement meditation.
This was the fist time I had ever dipped my toe into a moving meditation. This emersion really had the facilitators listening to all of the sensations that were moving through the body. We were encouraged to speak from the body, to listen to the body and respond with the body. I have to say I fell in love with the practice, the honesty of the movement, the rhythms in the music which delve into wild ecstasy and intimate stillness.
A modern way of balancing the body through movement and music, where I felt connected not just to my own rhythms but the universal ones. I met the most beautiful group of people from different countries, I did yoga every day starting with a session of restorative yoga. I danced every day and found myself really hearing the messages from my body that were truthful.
During the sessions of DANCEmandala I was surprised to find myself laughing so hard at times that my stomach ached. I think I actually fell on the floor once I was laughing so hard. What was so interesting for me was to have so many different sensations rising and falling often at the same time, I even experienced waves of my own disappearing, a bit like when you see a musician that suddenly becomes the music.
If you are someone that loves music and movement, but find embarking on a still mediation practice a challenge, then this really is for you. It is the ecstatic approach, sweating your way through the inner spirals of the body and waves of bliss to a beautiful space of emptiness, where complete relaxation becomes possible. Dive in to a session near you and explore.