When Did You Stop Dancing?(video)

Finding Stress Relief Through Ecstatic Dance

when did you stop dancing?
In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask you one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the seet territory of silence?” ~Angeles Arrien Ph.D.

In this society it could be asked ‘Did you ever dance?’  We have been raised in a culture where it is not necessarily the ‘norm’ to dance and many of us go our whole lives dancing very little if at all.  Those of us who have engaged in dance are often addicted to the rush it brings us and many decide to make a career out of this beautiful art of expression.  But there is another sort of dance taking the scene today, one that is free-form and expressive, one that is being used as a ‘medicine’ for the soul and all sorts of ailments.  This healing dance is called ecstatic dance and has no rules, format or particular ‘style’ to speak of.

Ecstatic dance is a tribal revival, bringing back the way of the ‘earth people’ and reuniting individuals with the ‘wild’, free nature of their soul.  In today’s society of fast paced living, driving through rush hour traffic and television over-haul, many of us have lost touch with the primal nature within.  Being connected to the land and the ‘beat of one’s spirit’ is the essence of tribal and ecstatic dance.  To ‘dance it out’ is to let the emotions that have been buried by the activities of ‘modern living’ surface for release.

This type of free-form dance is becoming increasingly popular in today’s world as ecstatic dance venues are popping up everywhere giving space to those who would take it as an opportunity to heal.  The European based School of Ecstatic Movement speaks of the benefits of this type of dance as:

  • Releasing stress and energizing the body
  • Freeing you from emotional baggage by moving ‘stuck’ energy
  • Transcending the chatter of the ‘small’ mind by bringing one into the present moment
  • Awakening the heart to self-acceptance and self-love
  • Connecting to the Divine Oneness of all that is and ones true nature

Ecstatic dance was officially ‘created’ as a form of healing and self-expression by Gabrielle Roth who used dance in her healing practice for many years. Free -orm dance helps get the individual ‘out of their head’ and back into the body where few of us actually ‘reside’ in today’s world.  With so many mental demands put on us, we often dis-inhabit the body to an extent and live in the ‘thinking mind’ where worries can brew about the past and the future.  This is how stress is created.  And just like most exercise, dance brings us back in – to experience the ‘whole’ self again -as well as activating the release of adrenaline and other healing hormones.

When did you stop dancing?  Most of us spend so much time sitting in our cars and at desks in front of computers that our bodies are stiff and not flexible.  Ecstatic dance allows one to move intuitively again and to break free from the ‘programs’ of our modern world to experience the taste of tribal existence once again.  Ecstatic dance is a way to reconnect to the body, move the energy again and release built up stress and tension.  If you haven’t danced in a while, maybe now is the time to start.

Most ecstatic dance communities encourage parents to bring their children along, as many kids take to this type of dance expression naturally.  In this way, ecstatic dance is good for the whole family and can encourage bonding as well as silent communication and healing.

If you are a bit shy about going out to dance with others in this free-form way for the first time – here is a short ecstatic dance video you can get up and try right now.  Allow yourself to move spontaneously to the rhythms and see what happens!  When you finish, you are bound to feel energized and free of stress and then you will be able to say that you haven’t stopped dancing!

Written by: Stasia Bliss

Sources: HSP Health; EcstaticDanceSeattle; EcstaticDancers.com; Coping with War and Terrorism; Ecstatic Dance the New Yoga; School of Ecstatic Movement

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