4 Steps For Starting A Personal Conscious Dance Practice
When I dance, I am engaging in a divine fusion of breath, body, sound, and space. Some days I am totally enraptured by the process, and other days showing up for the dance is a challenge. My body may be in pain. That endless “to do” list waiting on my desk reminds me of its existence. My rational mind may be running a thousand miles an hour, projecting negative self-talk about why I shouldn’t be dancing in the first place. My heart may be broken open from some unseen wound, giving way to a myriad of complicated emotions that can make life seem to difficult to embrace.
These are the days that I need to dance the most.
Around the age of five is when I realized that I could put on a record and move whatever way I wanted to—no steps, no expectations. I discovered that dance helped me to deal with the stresses of being bullied by classmates and navigating a great deal of stress in my family. For many years I viewed my childhood dancing as a vehicle I used for escape. After all, I literally went into the basement, away from all of the chaos, and moved to my own rhythm, my own story, often assisted by some of my favorite music. What I’ve come to realize now is at that young age I sowed the seeds of a personal conscious dance practice. Engaging in movement allowed me to feel what I needed to feel, fully without judgment. As a result, I was better able to deal with the drama of life, knowing that I could always return to the dance as a channel for being hospitable to my personal story and the wide array of emotions my story embodied.
Some days it might not seem to outside observers like I am dancing much. My movements are small. Yet when I purposefully let these movements be guided by breath, I am allowing myself to embrace whatever I might be feeling. In both my personal experience and professional work, I’ve come to realize that people can be so afraid of holding space for difficult emotions, thoughts, or spiritual connections. Old childhood messages or societal programming often fuels this fear. Many times, we are afraid to host our feelings and experiences because we’re not sure how we’ll handle them. I’ve heard time and time again from clients, “I’m afraid that if I let myself go there then there will be no coming back, my feelings will swallow me whole.” However, I have also discovered that the things we do to ourselves to keep from experiencing what needs to flow and be expressed causes us even more pain. This pain can manifest through a wide variety of addictions and maladaptive attachments, this pain can keep us cut off from living our lives as our truest, most authentic selves.
When we dance as one more means of escape, we may be doing a great disservice to our personal growth. Rather, when we approach the dance—be it in a group space or as part of a personal practice—as a medium through which we can notice whatever comes and not try to sensor it or judge it, we expand consciousness of both our inner and outer worlds. We realize that movement may help us accommodate a meditation practice where sitting may seem too overwhelming, at least at first. By not forcing the dance, instead, allowing it to unfold naturally, we can teach ourselves that we are capable of feeling the feelings, entertaining the thoughts, and allowing for the spiritual experiences that once seemed too daunting.
4 Steps For Starting a Personal Conscious Dance Practice
- Center with breath and set an intention for the practice; intentions can be whatever you want them to be (e.g., to dance the story of my day and release it; to expand my awareness of what’s happening in the world)
- Either in the silence or with a piece of music you select, allow yourself to begin moving in a way that seems organic to you; it’s important not to force, strive, or hurt yourself. Let the process unfold naturally. You can keep it to one song or choose to string many together.
- Continue to notice what happens, knowing that you can pause at any time if you become too overwhelmed. Should this happen, it’s important to keep breathing and perhaps seek the support of another expressive art form (e.g., journaling, drawing/coloring/art making) or a trusted member of your support system.
- At the end of your dance practice consider taking some time for seated meditation or laying in rest to notice the stillness after the movement and observe the benefits of your practice.