When thinking about the potential health benefits of dance, lean muscles and improved fitness spring to mind. But dancing can provide us with so much more than just physical exercise, it can complement our mental wellbeing too.
In a world where we are always on the go, it can be challenging to find new and effective ways to relieve stress. So, if you’re looking to explore the benefits of dance, keep reading:
The science of dance and stress reduction
The bodies instinct to respond to rhythm is a primal one. Dance, in its various forms, can be traced back into almost every culture, embedded in social practice as means of communication and celebration.
In fact, dance can be considered synonymous with joy – who ever felt blue after a boogie?
In short, dancing stimulates the brains reward centres, such as the orbitofrontal cortex. Our bodies respond to the rhythms and the result is a wave of endorphins and serotonin, making it a highly effective form of stress-relief.
Dance is also a recommended form of therapy for those suffering from depression or anxiety. Commonly referred to as DMT (Dance-Movement Therapy), clinical studies have even proven that regular sessions can improve memory-recall in those suffering from dementia.
Just like yoga, dance targets the body’s entire energy system, integrating the physical and the spiritual. When we dance, our minds shift from the reactive state of consciousness that often governs us in our busy lives, into an altered state of consciousness known as the present. That’s right, switching on the music can help you switch-off!
Get into your own groove
Fancy giving it a go but worried you might not be the next Wayne Sleep? The greatest thing about dancing is that it’s all-inclusive. It’s important to remember that dance comes in many forms and can be practiced in many ways – it’s not just for the pros!
Practicing from the comfort of your own home can be just as rewarding as enrolling in a local class. Here are a few ideas to get you going…
If the word dance makes you feel a little apprehensive, why not start with some simple movements. At its core, dance is simply the art of moving the body, so why not try a mirroring exercise with a partner to get you started.
Facing your partner, start by taking a few controlled breaths to release any tension. Then take turns to create movements, while the other mirrors. The movements can be simple, arm gestures or head tilts, but the important thing is that you maintain your breath and go where your instincts tell you. Listening to relaxing music can enhance your focus, and once you’re comfortable you can incorporate your whole body into the exercise.
Enrol in a class:
If you’re thinking of jumping in head first, why not research dance classes in your local area? The vast array of styles mean that you’ll have plenty to choose from, be it Salsa, Ballet or a movement class that focuses on simple dance steps. The one-on-one time with your teacher will help keep injuries to a minimum, as well as giving you valuable coaching.
Sometimes, simply turning on some relaxing music, closing your eyes and letting your body move instinctively can be enough.
Solo practice can also be catered to suit your mood and needs. If you’re feeling tense or agitated, you might benefit from more intense exertion, so put on a power track and let loose. The best bit? This cost-effective method of practice means you can enjoy whenever you like, no matter your budget or schedule!
As with any practice, it’s important to ground the body after physical exercise, so be sure to stretch and cool the muscles down. If you’re looking to enhance your cool-down routine. why not consider the HoMedics STRETCH Mat. The yoga-inspired treatments elongate and stretch the muscles while supporting the body with a series of air chambers. You can read what happened when I tried the STRETCH every day for a week HERE.
What else can dance do for me?
Already practicing yoga or other forms of exercise? Here are a few ways dance can help enhance your existing practice:
Improved balance & coordination:
A Minot State University study recently found that, following 12 weeks of Zumba, 60 seniors aged 65 to 91 saw an improvement in their nimble cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making. The more we dance, the better our bodies become at recognising movement. That means you can spend less time worrying which yoga pose is coming next and enjoy every moment of practice to the fullest.
Strength and control
Unlike most forms of exercise, dance conditions the entire body, including those muscles which frequently escape a work-out. The significance of posture carries more than just aesthetic value. Simply standing still with the lumbar, abdominal and gluteal areas engaged will give your body a whole new level of control.
Just like in yoga, dance works on lengthening the muscles, opening the hips and loosening the legs. If practiced regularly, dance conditioning can drastically improve your level of flexibility, helping you reach a deeper and more comfortable Uttanasana.
TOP TIP: When your hamstrings or calves are feeling a little sore, why not give the HoMedics Handheld Massagers a try. These portable devices are a great way to soothe and work out tension post-exercise, relaxing muscles as they go.
And that, is how dance can help you relax. Whether you’re looking to relieve stress and tension or simply lift your mood, what better excuse do you need to get up and get dancing!