Have You Tried Ecstatic Dance?

 

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask you on of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the seet territory of silence?

So begins the forward to Gabrielle Roth‘s book, Maps To Ecstasy written by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist who has written The Four Fold Way and Signs of Life. Maps to Ecstasyis an introduction to the wonders of ecstatic dance.

Why Dance Is Making A Comeback

It’s noteworthy that dance is making a comeback at this point in time. Dance has never died. However its role is changing aided by several popular dance shows, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Although dance has always had a social role, increasingly its healing role is being recognized.  So You Think You Can Dance in particular has presented this therapeutic role of dance using dance for emotional, psychological and cultural healing.

These changes are not accidental. As institutional structures fracture and a new way of life comes into being, dance has the ability to help us not only heal the past but also to be more fully engaged in the present. You have to be present to dance, otherwise you trip over your feet or worse.

Dance gets us out of our heads. It heals the mind-body connection.  Dancing helps us be fully in our power and lets us see that we are OK and can trust ourselves.

Tribal Dance

It’s in the air. We can feel it.  As our monolithic economic system breaks up, the world is becoming more tribal. Tribes have had a negative reputation in maintream culture for a long time. Tribes have been depicted as ignorant, dangerous, worshiping many gods and having strange practices.

We are now learning a different story about tribes. Tribes have skills that we are very removed from: understanding nature, healing skills, and ecstatic dance skills to name a few.

Tribal dance is very old and has many functions. Many of us have heard of rain dances, but tribal dances actually had another function. Tribal dances have been used for emotional healing and psychological growth for thousands of years. Tribal dances let the dancer enter into the energy of their lives, relate to, accept it and let go. It is a way of processing deep emotional issues that is both non-harming and healing. It is a way of staying in right relation to life and the world around you.

Tribal dances are used at important life transitions to help an individual process the emotions they are experiencing so that they can release and be clear for the next events in their lives. Blocked and unprocessed emotions are inevitably harmful and prevent us from wholeheartedly engaging with life. Tribal dance prevents people from becoming frozen in an emotional state by using the free form dance to help the individual to move through their feelings.

Ecstatic Dance

Ecstatic dance is a freeform dance. Modern Ecstatic dance is the brainchild of Gabrielle Roth, who has used dance as a therapeutic method for many decades.

Gabrielle has written extensively about dance as a way to reclaim our ecstatic experience of life. Ecstatic dance gets us out of our heads into our bodies and helps us see ourselves as the actors in our on lives. It creates unity between ourselves and the life force of the planet. It helps us be one with the stages of life and accept and move through them gracefully.

Gabrielle has identified five universal life energies that she has incorporated into her dance. Interestingly they are also the stages of the creative process. She describes the five rhythms as:

  • the flowing rhythm: a teacher of fluidity and grace. Flowing is like a warm up, when we start to engage. It is gentle and curious.
  • the staccato rhythm: the teacher of definition and refinement. Staccato is structure and order, like working with building blocks. Staccato works with what is.
  • the rhythm of chaos: the rhythm of creativity seeking form. chaos occurs when we go beyond what is. We have worked staccato and now move into a creative phase with what we have been working on. All the curiosity of flowing and working of staccato prepares for chaos.
  • the lyrical rhythm: the rhythm of synthesis and integration. In the chaos phase of our creativity we open to the new and consider many possibilities until we find what will work. Lyrical is the integration and synthesis of that new information or solution.
  • the stillness rhythm: the rhythm of contentment and peace. After synthesis and integration, we can stand back, consider what we have done and gracefully let go, releasing ourselves and our work until we engage again.

The Value Of Ecstatic Dance For HSP’s And Everyone Else

As we enter a more tribal age, we each need to be in our own power and connection at the same time. For so long we have been glued to computers, assembly lines, and other structures of the industrial age, that many of us are stiff in our bodies, hearts and minds.

Ecstatic dance loosens it all up, gets our energy flowing, helps us see what we can control and what we have to let go of. Ecstatic dance is a dance for helping is to heal into a more mature and joyful time.

Ecstatic dance can help you learn to lead, to follow and to get out of the way, each in its own way at the right time. It can make us whole at a time when we desperately need whole human beings. Becoming more whole will also help us to respect and like ourselves more and in doing so we can like each other more as well, making a better world possible.

If you are a highly sensitive person, ecstatic dance can help you remain connected and remove stress so that you can stay more in your natural creativity. If you are a non-HSP, ecstatic dance can help you safely step out of your mind into you body and help you feel your connection to all things. If you have suffered harm or trauma, ecstatic dance can help you move through your feeling so that you feel like living again.

Ecstatic dance is a wonderful safe practice that can help each of us feel better and connect better. I can’t think of anything better for each of us than ecstatic dance.

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HSP Toolbox: Mindful Walking

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HSP Toolbox: Mindful Walking - HSP Health Blog (file1761263062467)

Source: Morguefiles

As highly sensitive people, it’s easy for us to get stuck in our heads. Sometimes we’re unable to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations, which influence us to replay situations over and over in our heads. “Did I say the wrong thing?” “Is she angry with me?” These and other familiar scripts rob us of time and energy. How do we break the cycle and rejuvenate?

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is taking a stroll in nature and gently coaching your mind to stay focused on the present moment and your current surroundings. If possible, make this a part of your daily ritual or self-care routine.

  1. Choose your path. Whether it’s the local park, the beach, or just a few blocks in your neighborhood, choose a path that’s accessible. You can also practice mindful walking in a mall or store, but nothing beats fresh air and sunshine.
  2. Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid flip flops or shoes with little support. Walking shoes are ideal, and barefoot in the sand can be soothing. Dress appropriately for the weather.
  3. Give yourself time. You can set aside any amount of time to practice this exercise, but thirty minutes allows you to really enjoy the experience. Wander for fifteen minutes and use the last fifteen to get yourself back.
  4. Unplug. If you can, put your phone on silent or leave it behind. Sending text messages or checking your social media takes away from the mindfulness practice!
  5. Go for it! Just start walking. Every time you notice your mind wandering to something that doesn’t involve your immediate surroundings, gently redirect your awareness.
  6. Let your senses be your guide. Breathe in fresh air. Notice the colors of the leaves, the sky, the grass, and the flowers. Listen to the sound of your feet hitting the ground. Feel the breeze brush against your cheeks. Tie your mind to your senses so you can stay present.
  7. Don’t give up. Sometimes you’ll notice that you’ve been worrying about something or replaying a conversation in your head. That’s okay! Be compassionate with yourself and kindly bring your mind back to the present moment.

According to the American Heart Association, making a brisk 30-minute walk part of your daily routine can improve blood pressure, reduce risk for conditions such as heart disease, and enhance mental well-being. As for mindfulness practice, the American Psychological Association indicates that it  can reduce rumination, emotional reactivity, and stress while improving memory, focus, and cognitive flexibility. You can combine this practice with the Breathing Meditation and Daily Journaling to create a self-care ritual to start or end your day.

HSP Toolbox: Breathing Meditation

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file000186656904In the article How You Breathe Matters, Maria Hill discussed the importance of breath and oxygen to the body, especially for highly sensitive people. She explains that when we are stressed, our body runs on emergency stores of oxygen as our breath becomes quick and shallow. In a stimulating and extraverted world, highly sensitive people need to begin the habit of stopping and tuning into the breath to make sure they are nourishing themselves with stress-relieving oxygen.

Breathing Meditation

This exercise is great for meditators of every level and easy to do in any environment.

  1. Direct your attention to your breath. Listen to it. Feel it. Take note of the way it sounds and how it feels passing through your nostrils and down your throat.
  2. Don’t worry about changing your breath, but you might naturally breathe deeper just because you’re paying attention.
  3. Make room for your breath by adjusting your posture; try to sit up straight with shoulders back and hands in your lap or by your sides. Imagine the crown of your head floating toward the sky.
  4. Fix your eyes on one spot in front of you or on the floor. You can also close your eyes if you’d like.
  5. The most important part: smile. Just a small lift of the corners of your lips will do. (You can try doing this meditation without smiling. Note the difference.)
  6. Count through eight (8) cycles of breath. That means one inhale and one exhale equals one cycle.
  7. When you’re done, you can choose to keep going or go about your business.

Benefits

  • Redirects awareness away from external stimuli and stressful circumstances.
  • Increases oxygen intake.
  • Resets breathing pattern.
  • Enhances mood, especially if you smile!
  • Discrete and non-disruptive.
  • Can be done anywhere at anytime.
  • Cultivates mindfulness.

Building the Habit

Breathing meditation has no prerequisites. You can do it in the morning or before bed. You can do it on your commute or in the shower. You don’t need a meditation cushion or special posture. This exercise is meant to be a natural part of your everyday life. After a few sessions and experiencing the benefits, you might find yourself weaving it into your daily regimen. Just keep it in your self-care toolbox and use it whenever you need to refocus.

What Is Special About NIA?

The Joy of NIA

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

What is special about NIA?

If I could pick one exercise program that I think would be great for highly sensitive people, it would be NIA.   NIA stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Movement.  It was founded in 1983 by Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas, two fitness trainers, who felt that there was a need for a better exercise program.

NIA , located online at NIANOW was the result of their effort to integrate martial arts, dance and healing arts disciplines into a program that celebrates movement and, as they say again and again, “the body’s way.   The story of NIA is a wonderfully uplifting tale of how two people searched for their wholeness and found it in their own creation, NIA, which they have made into a gift to the world.

Where did the idea come from that we have to fight and deprive our bodies?  Too often exercise is really a form of punishment and when we engage in punishing exercise we feel virtuous.   NIA is not a punishment so it dispenses with “no pain, no gain.”

One of the most amazing characteristics of NIA is how each move is really simple.  No complex movements that make you feel like an idiot!  You do not have to turn into a pretzel to be healthy.  You do not need special outfits, lots of equipment, not even shoes!  If you like walking barefoot in the grass, you will like NIA.

NIA treats the entire person. Now, NIA is not the only exercise discipline to consider the whole person.  Yoga is the best known and there are others.  They are all good exercise programs. So why is NIA different?  I think is it a combination of factors:

  1. Because the individual exercises are simple, each person can have a their own exercise experience at their own pace.  In many exercise programs, the technical side is so complicated that the individual focuses on the execution.  In NIA, the simple exercises make it possible for the exerciser to BECOME the movement, which means the integration of body, mind, emotions and even soul can occur.
  2. The physical integrative aspects of NIA are impressive.  I like the way all joints are exercised.  If you follow the exercises, you will also create an exceptional core.
  3. In my experience benefits are achieved quickly.  I have been impressed with the fast improvement in strength, back and arms.
  4. The program is portable, flexible, and it takes 15-30 minutes to do the basic exercises depending on the person and the amount the exercise.
Highly sensitive people need a simple effective way to become healthier and fit.  Since many HSP’s can be in a weakened state because of stress levels or illness, NIA is made to order for people who needs great results but without being expected to jump through more hoops than a circus tiger.
As their book, The NIA Technique, the Rosas write, “NIA is like chocolate”.  And it is.