If you can walk, you can dance, as the saying goes. Dance is a fundamentally healing and life-affirming practice. It is a wonderful way to move the body, feel the beat, and move emotions and even trauma through the body, especially when we dance in an intuitive way.
Conscious Dance as Emotional Healing
One of the fundamental truths about emotions is that they exist within the body. They are called feelings because we feel them! When we have an emotional experience, we don’t always have the space to fully express it through our bodies. Maybe it’s not safe to fully express our anger or cry as deeply as we would like. We may be concerned about what other people might think, or we may have learned from our culture or our families that it’s not okay to show our emotions clearly.
However, dance is a nearly universally accepted form of self-expression. When we dance, we make shapes with our bodies. We can shake, stretch, jump, walk, run, or curl up into a ball. These shapes can express emotions that have been caught inside of our bodies and need to be released.
Similarly, trauma often manifests as symptoms in the physical body. This is often because, in a traumatic situation, our instincts wanted us to do something, like fight, run away, or collapse. If our instinctual attempt was frustrated or didn’t work, or it didn’t get us to safety, we absorb the trauma into the body.
When we can allow our bodies to express these movements in a safe environment, it can often help teach the body that we are safe now, that the traumatic experience is over, and that we can let it go. Conscious dance can be one of the ways we can do that.
What Does Conscious Dance Look Like?
Conscious dance practices are organized events that are generally sober and allow for a very free-form expression of dance. 5rhythms is a dynamic movement practice developed by Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s. It is essentially a moving meditation that allows the body to express the heart and soul.
Open Floor and Soul Motion are two other branded types of conscious dance, but there are likely other classes or programs in your area that promote free-form movement with and around other people. Generally, there will be music playing that you can move to as you like. You may dance with others if you wish and if they consent, or simply stay in your own space, exploring movement on your own. There are even online versions of conscious dance programs you can attend from the comfort of your home, playing whatever music you prefer.
How to Practice Conscious Dance On Your Own
Even if you do not want to attend an official conscious dance event, it can be incredibly healing to simply put on some music you enjoy and start moving. A mindful movement practice allows your awareness to gently stay on your body and how you’re feeling, with as little judgment or criticism as possible. (If you notice yourself feeling judgmental or critical, acknowledge those feelings, then refocus your attention to the moment!)
Notice how different types of music may elicit different emotional states, even memories. Observe how your body wants to be expansive and exuberant one day, but its shapes are smaller, quieter, and slower the next. Notice if your body wants to express anger and frustration, even if you don’t know why or what it means.
Simply giving your body the space to move in its own way without judgment or direction can open you to places within yourself that need release.
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