Many people who have tried dance movement therapy rave about its results. They feel physically and mentally recharged. Further, it is said to aid healing and slow down aging.
Some call it dance.
Others call it movement meditation.
Still others call it presence.
What is dance movement therapy?
It is simply moving your body to changing choreographies, regardless of your ability to coordinate. You focus on getting therapeutic benefits from your rhythmic movements rather than how graceful you look. It also aids healing, slows down aging and improves immunity. That’s why some call it “natural immunotherapy” or “mind-body medicine”. Some scientists prefer psychoneuroimmunology.
There are many types of physical exercise. Research demonstrates that two specific types, vix endurance training and “dancing,” enhance the areas of the brain that generally degenerate with age. However, only dancing leads to behavioral changes with respect to improving balance. This is due to the additional task of learning the dance routine.
Does dance movement therapy actually work?
A cohort of elderly volunteers were assigned to either:
- A sport group, incl. endurance, strength and flexibility
- Or a dance group, incl. changing choreographies that needed to be memorised
- Both groups showed an increase in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus (susceptible to age-related decline – memory, learning and balance).
- But only the dance group showed a volume increase in more subfields of the left hippocampus and one subfield of the right hippocampus.
- In essence, while both are good, changing choreographies was superior to repetitive exercise. But this doesn’t mean that endurance exercise is not important.
How dance movement therapy aids cancer treatment
According to the Cancer Society, dance increases endorphin levels in the brain and makes one feel comfortable and secure. Besides, dancing or moving the body in a rhythmic way also activates other body systems. This helps to stay healthy and fit.
Specifically for cancer patients, the benefits of dance movement therapy include:
- Developing suitable body tone, image, and self-acceptance.
- Improving confidence and self-awareness.
- Learning to express and control feelings.
- Learn to sort out problems and take proper decisions.
- Dance movement therapy also helps cancer patients better deal with life’s various challenges.
- Resuming and personification after any traumatic experiences.
- Learning to face relationship challenges like sexuality or intimacy and improving relationship skills.
- Dance movement therapy when conducted in group sessions also help to combat feelings of “why me?”.
What if I just can’t dance?
The effects of dance movement therapy are independent of your perceived ability to move (or even your resistance to “dancing”). Rather, they depend on the extent of your involvement and your connection with the music. If you have “two left feet”, or consider yourself “rhythmically challenged”, have no fear. Movement is innate. Focus on your connection to the music. And let the benefits serve and move you.
- How ‘mobile’ are you on a daily basis? How sedentary is your lifestyle?
- What is the best way integrate dance movement therapy with your treatments?
- Physical fitness, mental health or just having fun … what are you looking to achieve through dance movement therapy?
Dr. Niraj Mehta, MD is a Medical Director, Radiation Oncology based in Miami, USA. He is also the Creative Director of Making Moves Universal and a Cancer Awakens Sherpa. Having closely worked with cancer patients, Niraj wants to make the cancer journey exciting and fulfilling … even a celebration!