Grace in Motion

Healing Through Joy

Recently I had the pleasure of doing the “Let Your Yoga Dance for Special Populations” program with Megha Nancy Buttenheim at Kripalu. My original intention was to add an additional  skill set to my existing Laughter Yoga practice that I teach seniors and special populations. Nothing could have prepared me for the transformative experience that occurred.

As a career counselor, I spend my days helping others find their true passion and purpose and yet somehow, I overlooked my own passion and connection to dance and movement.

As a young girl,  dancing was my passion and also my healing tool for recovery from  trauma in my life. My mother died, suddenly and unexpectedly when I was nine years old. To make matters worse, I believed in my young mind, that I had somehow caused her death and it was my fault. A deep and visceral sense of Shame filled my body and mind. I now realize how important  dancing was to me and how much it helped me cope and deal with my emotions. It anchored me and helped me find a form of self-expression  that enabled me thrive.

 The week immersed in learning more about Let Your Yoga Dance was transformational. The combination of the physical, spiritual, emotional and energetic levels  created such healing through joy and touched my soul in a very deep way.

I now know that I want to incorporate the joy of movement into my work with positive psychology and see a strong connection between the two.

  • Physical exercise is one of the most potent positive mood enhancers.
  • Movement gets us into the present and allows us to access the unconditional truth of who we are. In this space, we can connect to our inner guidance and authentic selves in a very visceral way.
  • Movement releases emotion and clears the way for emotional wholeness. When we bypass the mind, we can access our inner emotional world and clear out the residue quickly and effectively by literally moving it out.
  • The practice is unifying.  Let Your Yoga Dance connects people in an unspoken bond. We feel connected and a part of something greater than just ourselves. As we know from Positive Psychology, when we are connected to others, we are … happier.
  • Movement encompasses the whole being from the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects and allows the ripples of change to reverberate across all these dimensions.
  • Movement is FUN and allows us to be playful. It suspends judgement and engenders compassion and most importantly, self-compassion. Again, all elements of being happier.
  • Learning new movements creates new neural pathways in the brain and helps break old behavior and thought patterns. Peter Lovatt, a Dance Psychology Professor in the UK has done extensive research on the effects of dance on cognitive functioning. He found that structured dance (routines) have a positive impact on the speed of convergent thinking and that unstructured dance has a positive impact on divergent thinking. All this makes us more creative, not only during the dance practice, but in all future cognitive activities.  (www.peterlovatt.com)
  • Movement takes us outside our usual comfort zone in a small way and encourages further risk taking into unchartered territory.
 
Please consider joining Megha  at the next Let Your Yoga Dance program which will be held September 22 – 28 at Kripalu. It is going to be so much fun.  I would love to dance the joy of life with you….
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Ik-Kil-CenoteOn a recent visit to Ik Kil Cenote  (sinkhole) in Mexico I found myself confronted with FEAR in a way that I have not experienced in a very long time. Ik Kil is a magnificent natural water well where you have to climb down a stone stairway 131 feet long to access this beautiful underground well. Being of faint heart, afraid of heights, swimming and cold water,  I decided to extend myself out of my comfort zone and undertake the descent into the fresh water. That was my “stretch”. Exhilarated by my bravery and ability to transcend my fear and claustrophobia, I swam in the Mayan mythical waters and marveled at my feat. I felt reborn and rejuvenated by the natural rain water well.

I looked up at the nature chiseled diving board, about 15 feet above my head  and saw my daughter and husband leaping off the cliff. I marveled at their joy and exuberance as they finally emerged to the surface from the dive. My brother and his children followed next and in a sudden flash of insanity, I wanted to do the same. Immediately, the old tapes in my mind went into overdrive, convincing me that this was beyond my ability and that it was out of the question. I watched several more people laughing and jumping with abandon into the water and my desire to do the same grew stronger.

To the surprise of my husband,  I started climbing up the nature chiseled stairs of the diving ramp. I felt my heart racing so fast that I was sure it would burst out of my chest. Sweat beads formed on my forehead and as I looked over the cliff into the depths of the water; I backed away.  I descended the stairway to the safety of the wall. Instead of feeling relief, I felt more resolve to take the leap and once again climbed the fateful ramp. This time, all eyes of my family were on me, encouraging me to do it and motioning me to jump. Again, I had to climb down, persuading myself that staying safe was also a compassionate act of self -care. And yet…. this nagging voice in my head kept getting louder and louder. I wanted to jump and knew that there was no other way to confront my fear, other than through. I HAD to jump, and to take a metaphoric leap of transformation.

My daughter and nephew climbed up and stood next to me, offering to jump in with me.  Then, in a second of uncomfortable bravery and insane courage, I JUMPED. It was over in a flash, but the exhilaration, joy and courage remain with me.

What I learned that day was that FEAR will never go away and is ever present as a barrier to getting or doing what I truly want to do or be. I have learned that the way to overcome fear is to flex my courage muscle every day and resolve to do something out of my comfort zone so that my ability to expand and co-create my life becomes easier.  Just because fear shows up, I refuse to allow it to prevent me from growing and doing what I want to achieve or experience. Publishing this blog post is yet another leap of faith.

Positive Psychology in Action

Let Your Yoga Dance is a celebration of joy and creativity through dance, inspired by the philosophies and practices of yoga and dance. It is a journey of self-exploration of body, mind and spirit and offers a vehicle for personal expression and creativity. It is a holistic practice in that it offers healing through joy while transmitting body health, brain health, heart health and soul health.

For me, Let Your Yoga Dance, is the physical embodiment of the PERMA model developed by Marty Seligman, all contained within the one hour practice.

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Positive Emotions

  • Through the activation of the energy centers and the use of upbeat, positive music, the practice fosters and creates positive emotions.
  • The connection to Nature, sensuality and creativity, positive power, love as applied to self and humanity, inner guidance and knowledge fosters new neural pathways.
  • It reduces stress and creates a sense of well-being and comfort.
  • The use of conscious breath oxygenates the body, bringing fresh air to the mind and body.
  • The nonjudgmental acceptance of self fosters a deep sense of self compassion.

Engagement

  • The practice brings one into the “here and now”  in a profound way through the focus on the breath and the music.
  • It is fun and creates a sense of flow by combining easily followed choreography coupled with the opportunity for self expression and improvisation.
  • The combination of the mix between fixed choreography and self-expression provides the balance required to create the “flow ” experience.

Positive Relationships

  • The group setting fosters a strong sense of community through eye-contact, partnering and group dancing.
  • The circle is used as a physical manifestation of the power of community and the notion of unity.
  • Let Your Yoga Dance fosters a positive relationship with SELF that is a pre-cursor to relationships with others.
  • The practice fosters greater self awareness and connection to the essence of who we are as our essential selves.

Meaning

  • At the core, we are in search of our authentic selves, unfettered by the limiting beliefs and ego imposed perceptions of who we are.
  • Let Your Yoga Dance allows a portal through which mind and body can meet in this quantum space of the perfection of who we are.

Accomplishment

  • Taking a step outside of one’s comfort zone and feeling accomplished at the practice, is a sense of accomplishment.
  • Many people are uncomfortable thinking of themselves as dancers and in a practice, where every body, no matter what your size or level of competence can feel accomplished and successful, is a huge feat.

Please share how your experience of Let Your Yoga Dance applies to any of the above. I would love to hear your reactions and thoughts.