The Power of Dance and Movement | General Wellness | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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The Power of Dance and Movement 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:16 pm

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Several other forms of movement offer benefits at all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Yoga asana is one of the most popular and beneficial forms of therapeutic movement, and one of my favorites. Asana is defined as “posture”; its literal meaning is “seat.” In yoga asana, one moves through a series of asanas. These do more than just stretch the body; they open the energy channels (chakras) and psychic centers. From a physical aspect, yoga strengthens muscles, increases flexibility, improves endurance, and calms the mind and body. It also focuses on the power of breath, which helps to maximize one’s inner energy source while allowing it to flow through the entire body, bringing much healing and a sense of calm. Yoga is a wonderful form of meditation in motion. It is an ideal form of healing movement while traveling through life, literally and metaphorically, because it needs nothing but the body and the breath. Yoga helps me to connect with the spiritual world, as it has done for so many humans around the globe for thousands of years.

The Alexander Technique is a movement therapy based on the proper alignment of the head on the spine. When the head balances lightly at the top of the spine, the neck muscles do not overwork. This relationship between the head and the spine is of critical importance to health and coordination of the rest of the body. A teacher of the Alexander Technique helps a person discover what his or her movement style is, and how it fosters recurring problems like chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain, or any limitations in physical movement. By implementing the technique, students learn to rid the body of many harmful habits, heighten self-awareness, and use their own thought processes to restore poise to the body and graceful, natural movement—the way we were meant to move.

Popular Pilates
The Pilates Method is a physical fitness system developed by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century. Joseph Pilates, a boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer of English detectives, was interned at a camp in Lancaster with other Germans as “enemy aliens” during World War I. There, he developed an exercise method he called Contrology, referring to its emphasis on using the mind to control the muscles.

Known today as Pilates, this exercise method focuses on the core postural muscles that are essential in keeping the body balanced and in supporting the spine. The exercises also teach awareness of breath and spine alignment. While following the method, one learns how to control body movement through a series of exercises (with names like Swan or Mermaid) while keeping the mind focused on the task. Research and theories in motor learning, biomechanics, and musculoskeletal physiology support the overall health benefits experienced by those who practice this particular therapeutic movement method, which include stronger deep muscles of the back and abdomen, greater support and alignment of the spine, relief of back pain, and enhancement of long, strong, and flexible muscles.

Self-learning through movement

Several movement forms besides dance therapy teach self-awareness, not just of the physical self but of nonphysical attributes. The Gurjieff Movements, for instance, are a collection of precise movement exercises and sacred dances developed by G. I. Gurdjieff. The technique focuses on inner practices of attention, sensing, breath, awareness, feeling, and mental imagery while performing the movements. Patty Kane Horrigan is a teacher in the Gurdjieff style of movement therapy in New York. “Many of the Gurdjieff gestures are contradictory to what we expect—they’re not very fluid. In fact, they’re immensely angular; they require divided attention. Each part of the body may have a different tempo, and you’re doing them in a group where people are traveling in all sorts of directions. There’s not time to do anything except be there and try to find a way to manage all the different elements. If ever there was an activity that showed the uselessness of negative emotion or empty thinking, the movements are it. You can’t waste a second on doubt, criticism, idle thoughts, or any of the million other activities that go on inside our heads.” These movements aren’t intended as physical exercise. Instead, Horrigan explains, “They are part of a spiritual tradition that teaches that we work on ourselves so that we can ultimately work with and for others, and can be of service to the universe. For those who are interested in that journey, I can’t think of a better place to start than the body.”

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