Many people tend to shy away from dance classes, afraid of not being able to keep up with the pace of a choreography or beat, or even because they are just self-conscious. This is not the case for 5Rhythms dance. This movement meditation invites everyone, no matter their size, age, complexion, gender or flexibility to lose themselves on the dance floor.
Gabrielle Roth, the founder of 5Rhythms, describes the dance as a soul journey, but apart from this, there are many benefits dancing provides to our health. According to The New England Journal of Medicine dancing frequently doesn’t only increase memory, but it's the greatest risk reduction activity against dementia as we get older.
In fact, during late adulthood, the hippocampus (part of the brain that controls memory) naturally shrinks, and in some cases leads to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, the cerebral cortex and hippocampus rewire themselves the more you use it, resulting in greater cognitive reserves.
Mobility is crucial to cognitive processes and, according to the study, dancing merges several functions at once – kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional function – further increasing your neural connectivity. It's emphasized that choreography is not actually necessary but that it’s the split-second decisions on movement that count.
Even if dancing with a partner is not really necessary in 5Rhythms, having 'dance-versations' with someone else reduces stress built up during the day, The Journal of Applied Gerontology confirms. And whether you decide to take a partner or go solo, swaying on the dance floor boosts your mood overall.
Studies have also shown that there's an improvement in balance and energy increase in people who include low-impact workouts (aerobics and dance) into their lives.
5Rhythms can have great health benefits
5Rhythms started as a dynamic movement practice in the 1970s and still brings people together in the spirit of connection, collaboration and artistic expression.
Elements from indigenous, world tradition, shamanistic and eastern philosophy along with Gestalt Therapy were merged by Roth – also a classical ballet dancer and dance teacher – to create a practice with the idea that everything is energy and moves in waves, patterns and rhythm.
“While a seemingly simple process, the 5Rhythms practice facilitates deep and unending explorations, moving the dancer beyond self-imposed limitations and isolation into new depths of creativity and connection.” 5Rhythms.com
Everyone goes on their own journey, exploring their body but sharing the collective experience of the ‘wave’ or five stages of dancing that mimic different aspects of life:
Unraveling by moving, the first rhythm you encounter is Flow. As the name suggests it refers to being fluid in our bodies, or allowing it to be and attending to its needs by being receptive.
Aspect of life: birth, fear, being, body.
Characterized by abrupt and stronger movements. Staccato establishes a connection by repetition. The dancers sculpt their movements and create form and self-expression.
Aspect of life: childhood, anger, loving, heart.
Headfirst into the beat and the unknown. Chaos is the dissolution of the structure the dancer has created so far, into a rawer version of themselves. There is a higher tempo accompanied by more complex movements. Untamable, until full release of the body.
Aspect of life: puberty, sadness, knowing, mind.
Once Chaos has been processed by the body and mind, it creates space for freedom. Lyrical sets the tone for a lighter and playful dance with simpler repetitions and patterns yet aiming for the dancer to feel grounded, creative and empowered.
Aspect of life: maturity, joy, seeing, soul.
The vibrancy of the dancefloor slowly falls into silence. Stillness is the end of the journey in five Rhythms and where all of the other stages converge. It is characterized by slow motions eventually arriving to meditation.
Aspect of life: death, compassion, healing, spirit.
Even though arriving to stillness is one of the aims of 5Rhythms, the experience is good for those who struggle with the idea of sitting still directly and meditating. The reality is that there are different types of meditation that work for different types of people.
5Rhythms dance features five stages that mimic different aspects of life
Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute says that a combination of two things result in effective meditation: repetition of a word, a sound or a movement, and the ability to turn off everyday thoughts. The body then naturally triggers the relaxation response.
“Good endings mean taking responsibility for the whole journey, distilling wisdom from our experience so that we may begin our next wave.” 5Rhythms.com
Also, Dr. Melinda Ring, director of Northwestern Medicine’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine says many activities work as long as the practitioner has the intention of being present and focusing on the body-mind connection.
After a long journey through 5 Rhythms in which you’ve integrated and tapped into your body, sweat, breath and intuition, you are ready to ride the next wave in or out of the dance floor! ●
(2010, July 30) Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter, Longer. Richard Powers
(2018, February 5) Why Exercise Boosts Mood and Energy
(2017, September 17) How to Meditate when you can’t sit still, Chicago Tribune
(2014, November 20) The Many Health Benefits of Dancing by Berkeley Wellness http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/active-lifestyle/article/many-health-benefits-dancing
(2003, June 19) Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly
Main image: Colourbox.com
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