Healing through dancing

In the greatest depths of my depression, I had moments where I couldn’t stand the thought of opening my eyes to another day.  Still, I would roll out of bed and go to my morning Nia class.  There, I would find my thoughts drifting towards darkness, towards the “should haves, could haves.”  Then, I would return to the beat of the music, the sound of my instructor’s voice, the feel of my feet against the hard wood floor, and the sight of fellow dancers moving around me.  Nia has gotten me through some challenging days where it was the only thing I really looked forward to or even enjoyed.  For many weeks, it was the only activity where I smiled or laughed out loud.

As I recover, bit by bit (for recovery comes in stages and I believe self-growth is a lifelong journey), Nia remains a constant for me.  When I’m in a Nia class, I step in and focus.  Nia doesn’t ask for perfection – it asks for me to follow my body.  So if I miss a step, I keep going.  It is a form of exercise and a source of joy.

To briefly describe Nia: it’s a dance fitness fusion that combines modern dance, martial arts, and healing arts (including yoga).   Debbie and Carlos Rosas created Nia in the 1980s as a low impact aerobic exercise that would benefit people, where they could move with their bodies and have fun.  For more information about Nia, go here.

I’ve been thinking lately about why I continue to dance, whether it’s in aNia class, at a music event, or in my own living room.  I’ve been dabbling in dance throughout my life – dancing in musicals, dance classes in college, etc – but it wasn’t until the past few years that I began to really see it as essential for my healing process and self-expression.

I dance because…

  • It makes me happy.
  • It helps bring me into or keep me in my body.
  • It helps me feel closer to spirit:  my own spirit and higher power.  It’s an act of devotion.
  • When I’m dancing, I pay attention.  I am more mindful and less in my thoughts.
  • It connects me with a community of people who enjoy movement.
  • It helps me feel myself, my emotions, and express and release them as necessary.  Through my movement, I break through.  Any tension or memories stored in my body can be transmuted or let go.

Sometimes I want to erase or revise my recent past:  going into crisis, going to the hospital, and having to leave the life I knew behind me.   At a Nia class recently, I had this thought:  “I could regret everything that’s happened, but then I wouldn’t be dancing.”   Right here, right now, I might not be dancing.

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