University

04/04/2011

Getting your groove on is good medicine

Finnerud_dancing Anybody want to dance? 

Dancing has never been a fad … indeed it’s likely one of the first arts human beings created … but even so it seems like there’s a lot of it coming up today.  Turn on your television and what do you see?  Dancing with the Stars, America’s Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance …

Much of this has the reputation as being just reality TV, but could it also be an expression of something joyful, even healthy? 

In a recent article, Psychology today spoke to the mounting and compelling evidence suggesting that “getting your groove on” is psychologically, physically, and spiritually invigorating. 

Researchers at the University of New England looked at the effects of “tango dancing” over a period of six weeks with people diagnosed with depression and other mental health issues. Researcher Rosa Pinniger found that tango dancing with a partner is an effective alternative therapy for those suffering from anxiety and depression. Tango dancing was found to interrupt the negative cyclic thought patterns through the practice of “mindful awareness” and connection with one’s partner and the dance routine. Through the mindfulness practices that the tango dance requires, participants experienced freedom from their detrimental thought patterns that led to the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The expressivity inherent in tango and other dance exercise regimens help people release emotions that have been “stored” in the body; keeping it all in the body can have deleterious health effects.  Indeed, Zumba, body movement, and other creative arts practices are increasingly becoming part of the realm of psychotherapeutic practice under the umbrella of expressive arts therapies. Leading the revolution in training expressive arts therapists is Dr. Natalie Rogers, daughter of the late humanist Carl Rogers.

Expressive arts, in any medium, celebrates the profundity of the human experience. It lights a candle to the vitality and immense depth of the human person—providing, meaning, purpose and utility.

New to the idea? Here are some of the benefits:

Stress Melter: Good music, lots of movement, and smiling faces all around. Say goodbye to anxiety and worry

Interval Training: It’s every person’s dream—movement that burns the extra calories faster. Zumba varies in its intensity; making calorie burning easy. Just starting? Take the intensity down a notch and do the moves slower—and eventually work up to the instructor’s pace.

Psyche: Research has proven that dance exercise helps anxiety, depression and a litany of other mental health issues. It is the “active” form of meditation for those of us that cannot sit still. The expressive dance requires great mental focus and awareness---and more—the body expresses itself without being restricted to the limitation of words.

Here are some ways to get started:

Dance Alone: Turn on the radio, throw on some gym clothes and get started by moving to the beat of the music in whatever way your body takes you.

Try Formal Ballroom Dance: After a few warm up sessions with yourself, dare to ask a friend and practice the old fashioned dances routines of line dancing, ballet, and tango. This is especially powerful if you are caught up in your head with negative thought patterns or feeling particularly depressed. It’s focused on the body and keeps you in the “here and now” in an expressive fashion.

Check out a Dance Exercise Class: When you are comfortable, try a formal dance exercise class. Time and time again, social psychology has showed the benefits of connecting with others in a group setting; especially if you have been feeling “blue” or depressed, or need to boost your self-esteem.

 -- Liz Schreiber

Posted at 05:13 AM in

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