Using Movement and Dance for Emotional Awareness and Release
by Barbara Barnes
Summer is here, and nicer weather encourages more time spent outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and taking a break from the daily grind by moving at a more relaxed pace. If we take a moment to think back to what we did when school was out and the whole summer was before us, we may remember playing in our neighborhoods, running to meet the ice cream truck, splashing in the sprinkler and going swimming in a backyard pool or lake.
As youngsters, we didn’t repress our emotions as easily as we do now. We laughed and cried openly. We moved our bodies more easily, without a thought or care about how others perceived us. Our bodies were an important part of how we expressed ourselves emotionally.
Over time, many of us began to hear more and more messages from our family members or guardians about sitting still, holding in our stomachs, not horsing around and acting appropriately. Little by little, we took on more and more self-consciousness about how we looked and moved, and gradually, we began to lose touch with one of the most natural ways of healthy emotional expression––movement.
In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo writes about a Native American story. When talking to the sick, Native American medicine men posed the question: “When was the last time you danced?” Nepo explains, “Dance is giving gesture to what we feel. While this is very obvious and basic to most children, it remains very difficult for those of us schooled to live in our heads.
“The ongoing effort to dance, to give gesture to what we feel and experience, is ultimately healing because, as riverbeds are continually shaped by the water that moves through them, living beings are continually shaped by the feelings and experiences that move through them. If there is no water moving through, the riverbed dries up and crumbles. Likewise, if there is no feeling moving through the body, the being at the center of that body will crumble.”
Many of us have learned to push these natural urges of moving energy through our bodies away, resulting in stress, pressure and blocked energy. We force ourselves to be still and shun the body’s desire to move and express itself. Luckily for us, our bodies are adaptable and open to change. There are many ways to move, dance and release blocked energy: dance and movement classes, tai chi, qigong, maitri, jogging, yoga, hiking, walking or simply moving to music that we love. The options are only limited by our willingness and imagination.
Releasing old energy and emotional blocks can help us access new energy. Gently listening to our bodies allows us to feel and explore, play and have fun, as energy flows in and through us. As we breathe in this releasing experience, we feel empowered, energized and alive.
Barbara Barnes, BSN, RN-Retired, MA/LMHC and owner of Lotus Heart Therapy LLC, offers therapy, consultation, groups and workshops. For more information, or to contact Barbara, visit LotusHeartTherapy.com.