Dance has been a part of our lives even before there was a name for it. But, what really is dance? Since there is no definite answer to this question, it welcomes subjective interpretations. Some might say that dance is a “universal language”, because it surpasses the cultural and linguistic boundaries and helps us to express ourselves in ways that go beyond our verbal capacity, others may describe it as a liberating experience, where you can move and express your bottled up thoughts, emotions, feelings and desires. It’s commonly believed that dance is a movement and it is omnipresent , as said by American poet Maya Angelou, “ Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”
Everyone has their own escape, an outlet, their safe space, their meditation, their way of healing or finding peace, for me, it’s always been dancing. So here I am, writing a whole article on why you should dance and how it can bring about a significant change in your life.
Not only is it beneficial for your physical health, building muscle strength, burning calories, increasing flexibility, improving circulation and fitness, but studies have shown that dance has a significant role in improving mental health and well being, brain function, and memory.
Our postures and movements have the power to transform our mental states, release spontaneity and creativity, to reorganize our brains.
Benefits of dance –
- Improves physical health – Dance can help develop muscles, tone the body, improve circulation, improve posture, balance, coordination and promote greater flexibility. When you are dancing , your whole body from head to toe is involved in some kind of movement. So, the next time you dance, try to absorb how your body is moving, how it makes you feel and how your senses are reacting to it. This will help you be more aware and mindful.
- Emotional benefits- Dance is driven by emotion. It is a process of feeling and then moving through that feeling. It helps us to express any mood- sadness, joy, fear, anger and many more, making us aware of our emotions. Regularly engaging in dance is shown to help build our ability to empathize and express emotions. It can also make us more sensitive to when others are expressing themselves and interpret their emotions more efficiently.
- Self confidence and self-esteem- Dance practice is proven to be a powerful method to enhance the tendency to be conscious and present in everyday life and therefore, dancers are mindful, emotionally regulated, and cognitively balanced. Success and sense of achievement an individual feels as a result of creating dance, gives them self confidence and motivation to master other challenges in life. Individuals can improve their self-esteem through dance by feeling the joy of movement, making physical fitness a part of their lives, and feeling a sense of self-empowerment.
- Improves cognitive ability- As a dancer practices and learns a routine, they are exercising the memory centers of their brain as well as strengthening their concentration. It exercises your brain as it requires you to be visually and spatially aware while remembering steps and positions and focus on constant changes in movement. Dance routines also teach pattern recognition skills. It incorporates several brain functions at once- kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional. Utilizing all of these at the same time can further increase your neural activity. Thus, boosting your memory and concentration level.
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression- Dance is an expressive art which can lift your mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. It increases the level of dopamine and endorphins, two neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness and improves the harmony between our mind and body resulting in reduced stress levels. Dancing also promotes the experience of “flow”, which is an almost meditative state that allows the dancer to focus solely on the movements, music, and rhythms instead of worries and stress. This experience of focus and flow also contributes to learning how to be more aware and mindful of one’s mental state. Dance can be a very therapeutic and healthy way for people to channel any feelings they may be experiencing. Whenever you feel anxious or under pressure, moving to your favorite music would help you to loosen up and channel your emotions.
- Builds social skills- When we dance with or for others, it can be a form of communication or expression and help you to build social connections and bonds. It is a great way to meet new friends and improves your social outlook while in an atmosphere where you can feel safe and comfortable.
- Coordination Benefits- Dance leads to Increased hand-eye coordination and improved fine motor skills. People who perform complex rhythms can also make faster and more precise corrections in many academic and physical situations.
- Improves Breathing- Dancers learn to coordinate their breath with rhythm and movement. Effective breathing can not only provide you with a greater sense of mental clarity, it can also help you have a better sleep, digest food efficiently, improve your immune system, and reduce stress levels. It also increases your lung capacity.
- Increase Balance- solid center of gravity is necessary in order to perform each step and sequence correctly. Practicing dance can help you develop more flexibility and strength, and naturally improve your posture, balance and spatial awareness.
- Stronger Heart- Dancing is the best cardio workout when done regularly. It significantly improves heart health, breathing and quality of life.
What is Dance/Movement Therapy?
Dance/movement therapy is a type of therapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. It is based on the belief that there is a correlation between mind, body movements and emotions. In general, dance therapy promotes self awareness, self-esteem and provides a safe space for self-expression. Beneficial for both physical and mental health, dance therapy can be used for stress reduction, disease prevention, and mood management. The creative expression of dance therapy can also bolster communication skills and inspire dynamic relationships.
Life is a creative process- each movement, gesture and expression contribute towards our self-awareness and growth. When we become aware of our movements during dancing, we drop into the present moment and observe ourselves rather than judging our ability to move. Thus, opening up the door to who we really are and embracing our unique self.
You don’t have to be a professional to dance. Challenge the critic in your head, and just move. You’ll feel the difference yourself!