(written for The Coaching Corner; Glebe Report)
When I was a student studying to become a certified coach, one of the first lessons I learned was that to become a good coach I had to learn about myself. And one of the first things I learned about myself was I was uncomfortable dancing in public.
At first, I was puzzled as to why, every day in the classroom, the teacher would turn on the music in the middle of the day and ask us to dance. I often felt embarrassed and fearful, hanging back from entering the circle where all the confident and coordinated coaching students moved. I tried to make myself invisible. Often, my teacher would grab me by the hand and drag me into the circle. I felt as awkward as a beached walrus, making little shuffling motions with my feet, gamely flailing my arms and biting my lower lip while I tried to move my hips. I was no Shakira, believe me.
Little by little though, I began to look forward to the dancing sessions, a time when I could tune into how my body responded to a song and a beat. I started to loosen up and to explore new ways of responding physically to the rhythm. Leading with my body not my mind, I found myself gravitating to the middle of the circle and my confidence on the dance floor blossoming.
Clearly, dancing was the potion I needed, helping me to crack through my stiff physical posture to discover a more relaxed and receptive way of moving with my body in public.
Dancing in the classroom gradually spilled out into my personal life. These days, I often put on music to do the dishes in the kitchen, sometimes shimmying back and forth as I imagine my new career as a backup dancer for Bruno Mars. This certainly doesn’t help me get the dishes done very quickly but I certainly feel good at the end of chores. Dancing alone, dancing with a partner, dancing in a group ― it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to get up and move.
For those of you too shy to get up on the dance floor at parties and concerts, but curious enough to check out what dancing might do for you, here is a little practice you can try, two to three songs at a time, at any time of the day:
1. Create a space in your home where you can physically move with ease and spontaneity. Move any furniture out of the way so that you can move freely without bumping into objects.
2. Put on some music and begin to move around. Let the sound dictate the movements of your body. Feel into your torso, pelvis, arms, hands, legs and feet. Be aware of how you are holding your head, allowing it to move freely. Keep your eyes open or closed. Vary your movements. Dance, walk, or hop.
3. Breathe into the rhythm and allow yourself to be transported by the music, experimenting with various movements and gestures.
4. Stop after one or two songs. Take a deep breath and check to see whether you feel like dancing to one more song.
5. Vary the music daily.
6. Finally, remember to lead with your body, not with your mind, and have fun.
This summer, for the first time ever, I sprang up from my lawn chair at the Ottawa Jazz Festival and found myself a little patch of grass to boogie all by myself while Caravan Palace performed. Frankly, I didn’t care what I looked like as I danced.
And in July, I attended a Baha’i wedding, a joyous event with hundreds of guests who spilled onto the dance floor as soon as the strains of Despacito, with its fusion of pop and reggaeton, filled the airwaves. Guess who was right up there trading dance moves with the bride and groom?
I’m now officially hooked. Dancing is good for my physical and mental wellbeing. It acts as a gentle aerobic exercise, elevates my heart rhythm and lifts my spirits. Studies show that dancing can even increase longevity, reduce the effects of dementia and make us smarter. That’s enough evidence to keep me on the dance floor for a very long time.
Batia Winer is a meditation teacher and a certified Integral Master Coach™. 613-327-7522; firstname.lastname@example.org