For those of you who have been following my blogs, articles and column, you know that I refer back to allegories and stories of my Yoga Master whom I went to study with in India in 1978. He knew me as a dancer and dance therapist and would murmur “dancer” whenever he would see me even though he did not speak English.
Dance and art were my first experiences of “Actualizing my Yoga”. It was in these moments of creative involvement that I experienced my first encounters with true meditation and Yoga—that experience of oneness, focus and bliss. Although my practice of Yoga evolved on its own, it was always inextricably linked to my life and to my work with dance, which came to be known as Movement For The Mind and the name of my book.
In these blogs, I will be sharing excerpts from the book. It is my hope that they will inspire you and open you to new levels of thinking, feeling, moving and actualizing. Please feel free to contact me for a copy of the book, which will be available in a downloadable form on my website: www.bodyminddynamics.org shortly.
The Power Of Dance
Physically, dance is the creative translation of what we do in this body: move. Dance speaks to every aspect of our being. It challenges us physically and at the same time satisfies the human need for self-expression, communication, and meaning. It demands that the mind be clear, focused, and attentive. Each movement must be birthed from emotional integrity, so that when people dance, they may experience the oneness that mystics speak of reaching in the highest spiritual state. Yogis refer to the creation of the universe as the Dance of Shiva. French author, Anais Nin, coined the phrase “life is a dance,” and countless poets and philosophers have made similar analogies between dancing and living.
However, in Western culture dance has been less accessible to the general public than perhaps any other art form (not withstanding the current craze of the TV Reality show, “Dancing with the Stars”). When I was a child, everyone was encouraged to draw and learn to play a musical instrument whether they showed specific artistic talent or not. Although I was offered ballet classes as a child, my brother never took dance lessons. After I stopped taking ballet, I don’t remember taking any other class in school that encouraged creative self-expression through the medium of the body.
The purpose of all art is to communicate. Dance communicates through the language of movement. The dancer needs only the body as a vehicle for creative expression. All content comes from the inside and is brought into form through the body. Dancing, singing, and acting are the only art forms that can stand alone without any other embellishments or supportive props. But even the singer and actor need words. Silently, the dancer uses what connects us all to this earth, the body.
In ancient and primitive cultures, symbols and rituals were significant components of everyday life. These cultures, which revered and lived closely with the earth and nature’s cycles, utilized movement intentionally as a metaphor for living. They did not rely solely on words to communicate, but understood the power of the symbolic and the power of living in the body. Dance, through its use of gestures, incorporates the symbolic in the acting out of movement. It also allows man to embrace the sacred within his own body.
In the early twentieth century the pioneers of modern dance—including Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and Doris Humphreys—used dance to express once again the passions, pains, and spiritual elements of life. Their dances told stories that contained the emotional and soulful aspects of human experience.
Modern dance pioneers’ vision of dance as a universal expression of life is not limited to the relationship between audience and dancer. Without an audience, the process of expressive communication can be an internal experience.
The Movement For The Mind® technique I created integrates the symbolic value of dance with the healing legacy of dance therapy, and includes Modern Dance’s vision of authentic expression. It brings back the power of dance to the individual and provides a vehicle for creative self-expression, integration, healing, and for better understanding ourselves and connecting to others.
If you feel that you don’t have rhythm or if you would like to experience your body’s innate rhythm and energy, take a moment to do this exercise. (Read the instructions a couple of times and then just repeat them to yourself mentally.)
Stand up. Close your eyes and take four complete breaths and then continue breathing normally. Remember to keep breathing through your nostrils. Now begin to listen to the rhythm of your breath and see how your body responds energetically. You may begin swaying or rocking. Let movements occur spontaneously. Go with any impulse. If your body does not move, continue listening to the breath for a few more moments. Do not strain or try to make anything happen. The point is to let go and become more sensitive to the subtle rhythms inwardly.
If you felt your body moving at all, you may have also become aware of your heartbeat and the rhythm of that pulsation. Listening to these simple rhythms helps us to connect to ourselves and to the moment. It also allows us to move and respond more spontaneously and with less restriction and judgment. The rhythm of the breath in this way is used to quiet and focus the mind and to awaken us to the subtle energies within us. In Movement For The Mind®, we can use this awakening for various purposes. The process alone of pausing to breathe deeply and then observing the breath will relieve the imminent effects of stress, but we can take this alleviation further.
© 2010, Françoise E. Netter, M.A.