“I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Health Benefits of Dance
Watch a child naturally move to music and you come to understand that it is a gift bestowed on our spirits at birth. Dance is a primal experience that was central to many of the rituals of our ancestors, and is still a widely accepted and inherent form of expression for many cultures around the world.
So why do so many of us feel uncomfortable simply letting our bodies move where the music takes us? I’ll admit, even though my iPod is engraved with “Dance like no one’s watching!” I still feel self-conscious dancing in front of people. So I just close the door, turn up the music, and let loose – problem solved.
Dance is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, and an amazing means of releasing pent up energy and emotions. Our bodies were designed to move, exercise releases positive endorphins, and when your exercise is combined with energizing music and natural movements that feel good to you, it is a win for your mind and spirit too.
- Create a playlist of energizing music with a quick tempo. Find, a quiet, secluded place with ample space to move and just move to the music.
- Set an amount of time in advance such as 15 minutes, or 5 songs, and continue moving until you have fulfilled your goal.
- Simple movements such as swaying your hips from side to side as you swing your arms, or circling your hips as if hula hooping can provide a full body workout.
- Borrow exercise/dance videos from the library to learn different steps, or enroll in a local class (see below for some suggestions).
Caution: Always start any new exercise program slowly and consult with your physician beforehand.
Types of Dance
Zumba has been sweeping the nation for the past several years, and with good reason. It is a heart-pumping, energizing, uplifting exercise that is suitable for all fitness levels. Even those who hate organized fitness classes tend to love the carefree nature of a Latin-inspired Zumba class. So what if you can’t follow complicated dance steps, there is no wrong way to move. Class participants say that their stomach muscles get the best workout because they are laughing so hard. And, as we all know, laughter is the best medicine.
Find a Zumba class here.
“Nia is a sensory-based movement practice that draws from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts.” (from www.nianow.com)
Nia incorporates principles from Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, Duncan dance, yoga, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais, in a practice designed to impact all elements of wellness -body, mind and spirit. In addition, it strives to make participants feel free and joyous. Classes include a variety of structured and free-form movements performed to music.
Find a Nia Class here
Belly dance has its roots in the Middle Eastern cultures of Turkey and Eqypt. It is often performed in beautiful costumes as a form of celebration. The movements of belly dancing focus on the hips, midsection, and shoulders, while also including fluid movements of the arms and hands. Given the overall emphasis on the core, body dancing gives the body a strong, solid foundation that can be helpful for posture and graceful movement.
To locate belly dancing classes in Connecticut visit www.yale.edu/bellydance/classes/.
Belly Dance Links – www.cuactivitiesboard.org/bellydance/Columbia_University_Bellydance_-_Links.html – a list of resources on costumes, music, events and more from Columbia University Bellydance.
Belly Dance Museum – www.belly-dance.org – for information on the history of belly dancing including information on costumes, music and more.
Dance from About.com – http://dance.about.com – a site covering the many forms of dance along with a wide variety of resources from site guide Treva Bedinghaus. *NOTE: About.com has many advertisements so information could be biased.
Nia Now – www.nianow.com – the site for Nia Dance with information on finding classes, become an instructor, and the full history behind this exercise/art form.
Yale Belly Dance Society – www.yale.edu/bellydance/ – for information and resources on belly dance from the Yale Affiliates Belly Dance Society.
Zumba Fitness – www.zumba.com/en-US/ – the official US site for the Zumba fitness craze with information on finding classes, becoming an instructor, and purchasing Zumba gear.
Yale Affiliates Belly Dance Society www.yale.edu/bellydance/
Nia Now www.nianow.com/