Our bodies were meant to move. We were hunter-gatherers for centuries, roaming this planet. We have two feet that are supposed to keep us moving forward. When we move, we sweat, and this releases toxins and chemicals. Dancing moves upper and lower body muscles and this ensures the mobilization of our lymphatic system. Unlike our circulatory system which has a pump, the heart, to move blood around and exchange wastes, the lymph system moves waste too, but it needs our muscles and movement to move the lymph fluid around. Movement also affects our neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. A runner’s high is from the production of endorphins, natural pain killers, which increase in concentration with exercise. Dance is also often associated with a sharp focus on our dance moves which helps us stop thinking about our worries. We may breathe more deeply, increasing our oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. We inhale happiness and exhale air pollution and stress. Emotions get stuck by sitting all day.
When that happens, the body keeps the score and illnesses occur. You may want to read the following books: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD and The Mind-Body Connection by John Sarno, MD. We all know that when we feel good, it is easy to listen to happy music and dance. But the flipside is also true, listening and dancing to happy music may help us feel good. So it’s a great habit daily to crank up some of your favorite tunes and dance and sing along to the music.
And, we can also use music and dancing to move our darker emotions through and out of our bodies as well. When we are feeling sad and anxious or in a fit of despair or even angry and ready to explode, we need to move those emotions through our body or they too will get stuck. It’s time to set a timer, put on some music that speaks to our present morose mood and let the music and the feelings move through you. Scream, yell, and cry while dancing to the ballad or ode. If you have never vocalized those dark emotions, imagine you are an actor on the stage: fake it till you make it. Act the part of the hysterical grandmother at the funeral. Think about a toddler: when he/she is angry, we have all witnessed the temper tantrum.
I do recommend a playlist and a timed interlude or dance set. When the music finishes, return to your world renewed and refreshed. Like the toddler – when the tantrum is over, that toddler is again as cute as can be. It is okay to have a range of emotions; we just need to learn how to process those feelings in a positive way. As women, we were told over and over to be sugar and spice and everything nice, and all too often we repressed or judged ourselves poorly for having other emotions. All humans have all emotions: rant and rage and cry to the music!
Of course, dancing is just one form of exercise. Some individuals might prefer to listen to music while they participate in other forms of exercise. My suggestion is just that, a suggestion: if you prefer to run or bike or swim or kickbox while the music is playing, you too should be able to move the emotions through and out of your body. So grab a playlist and your phone or old iPod, or perhaps you saved those vinyl records, DVDs, or cassette tapes. Act like a teenager and rock on.