As someone who danced my way through my early adulthood, when I look back and consider what drew me back to countless dancefloors time and time again, it seems really clear to me now. In simple terms, I was meditating.
In my teens, I remember driving to secret raves in the countryside where I would dance for hours under the stars with thousands of others. As I moved through my early 20’s, this was replaced by clubs and festivals around the world. I was participating in a major dance movement that sparked a sense of freedom and joy not just within me but an entire generation.
While they may not have been wholly sober experiences back then, I loved feeling part of a community of people who loved to dance just like I did, where we could close our eyes, free our bodies to a beating drum and forget, just for a while, about life’s pressures.
My first experience of sober dancing, or ‘dance meditation’ was during my travels to India at the age of 23. Here, I spent 2 months on a commune in Pune named after Osho – a famous Indian guru who promoted meditation as a tool to self-healing. Today the commune is the largest meditation centre in the world.
I remember each afternoon at 4.30pm, we would attend a one-hour session in the huge, beautiful auditorium lined with white muslin and no walls. We would begin sitting down, slowly starting to move our bodies as we tuned into the music. Then we would work up to standing and full on dancing, before the beat slowed and we would come back down to sitting and then lying on the ground. I remember we would leave feeling so happy, free, calm, balanced, like we had literally shed a skin… It was one of my favourite memories of being there. I had never felt so good.
Today, with the growing popularity of meditation and mindfulness classes, apps and workshops, there are many opportunities for us to transcend the noise of our busy minds, tune into our breath and regain mental balance. But for the busier mind, this can be challenging. Which is where dance meditation comes into its own.
When I learned that Paul Collins, Seed’s Yoga Nidra teacher, offers dance meditation sessions in Buckinghamshire, I was excited to try it. Inspired by both Osho and Shiva Rae, an acclaimed American yoga and free movement teacher, I couldn’t wait to experience this type of meditation again.
When I arrived, I walked into a warm, dimly lit and welcoming hall with a DJ table at the top, calming background music with a low continuous beat and people sitting around the room. I felt instantly at home. I knew a few faces which of course was nice. But, like a yoga class or wellness retreat, it is also easy to go to this type of event alone. I began the session lying on the ground on my yoga mat, hands on my belly and just tuning into my breath – my inhale and exhale.
With Paul’s voice as your guide, he takes you on a journey with his music, starting slowly and working up. As the music builds, you build with it, relearning how to free your body (and subsequently your mind), releasing the inhibitions and other limiting thoughts we continually place on ourselves. Just tuning into your own body and breath and being right there in the moment is liberating, stress relieving and rebalancing.
What I loved – It is such a somatic experience, bringing you out of your head and into your body. I love the fact that the session is long enough (2 hours) to allow for the process of releasing (often long-held) inhibitions in a safe and supportive space. Paul held the space so perfectly, moving around the room and encouraging us to let go so we could move more freely.
What I found challenging – It took a while to shake off the shackles of my inhibitions… but I got there!!
Conclusion – Dancing is something that has always played a part in our human experience, from ancient times to the modern day and within many religions and cultures across the world. Ultimately, dance is freeing and also unifying. This type of dance meditation provides a way to release self-imposed, restrictive thoughts and relinquish stress in both body and mind in a safe, non-judgemental space with a community of people who are there to do the same. I left the session feeling calm, relaxed and determined not to leave it so long until next time!
For more information about Paul’s upcoming dance meditations and other events, visit www.beyondgroup.co.uk