Movement Therapy

Group Dance

The healing benefits of movement are undeniable. Just think of how much better you feel taking a brisk walk after sitting in an office all day or how much clearer your head is after engaging in a dance class. Movement Therapy is based on the interconnection of body and mind and the assumption that moving one’s body has abundant mental and emotional benefits. As with all expressive arts modalities, movement therapy acts as an outlet to help facilitate self-expression, emotional regulation, and the movement of energy through the body. Negative emotions can literally get “stuck” and cause a number of physical issues if they are not processed. Engaging in movement, singing, writing, painting, and other expressive arts processes can help get these emotions “unstuck” and result in a healthier body and mind.

 

Some might find the idea of engaging in movement to be intimidating, but the good news is that one does not need to be a professional dancer to experience the benefits of movement therapy, as all that is required is moving the body in a way that feels good. Additionally, “movement” doesn’t necessarily mean dance. There are countless ways to move one’s body—jumping, bouncing, walking, skipping...the sky’s the limit! Again, the idea is to simply do what feels good to you. Additionally, the same endorphins that make you feel better when moving also help you concentrate and sleep better, have more energy, and can help you become more resilient when faced with the mental or emotional challenges of life.

 

While the simple act of moving one’s body is highly therapeutic, Dance Therapy is the formal use of  “dance as therapy.” Defined, dance/movement therapy (DMT) in the United States is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance to support the intellectual, emotional, and motor functions of the body. As a modality of expressive arts therapy, DMT looks at the correlation between movement and emotion. Also called “movement psychotherapy,” there is no one primary type of movement style used within this therapeutic practice. DMT programs range from the use of traditional dances like ballroom to more subtle forms of movement like yoga and stretching to calm the body. Dance therapists help people work on issues through the use of a “movement vocabulary” that is centered around physical expression instead of words and hold Master’s degrees in Dance/Movement Therapy.

 

 

Here is a Movement Therapy Exercise for you to try!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movement & Music Centering Exercise:

Who: 

Children ages 10+, Teens, Adults

Why: 

During times of uncertainty and stress, one’s body can become stuck in “fight or flight” and, in this highly aroused state, it is common to obsess over thoughts about the past or worry about the future. Bringing one’s thoughts back to the here and now using sound, breath, body awareness, and movement can be very useful in calming the nervous system, regulating the body, and breaking up the cycle of rumination or catastrophizing.

 

What:

*Take some time to find music that you enjoy—perhaps a song or soundtrack that you particularly connect with or something that you find particularly soothing or inspiring--along with something to play it on. 

*Once you have your music prepared, get comfortable wherever you are. This could be either indoors or outdoors, sitting or standing--just make sure that you have some privacy and room to move.

 

*Next, take a few minutes to close your eyes and connect to your breath. Focus on the sensations in your body as your belly and lungs fill up with air and then release the air slowly. Try making a low “hum” sound as you release your breath and see how that changes your experience.

 

*Now, notice everything that is true about you and your immediate environment in this very moment and either state these awarenesses out loud, whisper them, or simply say them to yourself. 

Examples of things you might notice and “awareness statements” you might make:

“I notice that I feel calm and safe in this moment.”
“I feel the warm breeze on my face.”
“I feel my stomach move in and out as I take long, slow breaths.” “I feel my heart beating as I put my hand to my chest.”
“I hear the sound of birds chirping.”

*Once you have given yourself enough time to establish a sense of connection to your physical body and your surroundings, begin to play your music. First, allow yourself time to sit or stand in stillness, focusing solely on the sounds you are hearing, paying special attention to the rhythm, instruments, beat and lyrics of the music.

*Next, turn your awareness to the difference in how you were feeling in your body in the silence before the music began and how you are feeling in your body now that your music is playing.

Examples of some of the somatic differences you might note:

  • Has your heart rate increased?

  • Has your breath quickened? Slowed?

  • Has your body temperature changed?

*Now, begin to move to the beat in whatever way feels good to you. If you have limited range of motion or are unable to stand, this can be done seated as well--just move in whichever ways your body will allow. Do not push or strain. Try not to focus on how what you're doing looks, rather, keep your attention on how it feels. Get out of your head and into your body!

*During this process, remember that if intrusive or worrying thoughts about the past or future attempt to come in, you can bring your attention back to the present moment and focus instead on how your body responds to the music. The idea is to bring yourself fully to the here and now.

 

*Do this for as long as you want! Important things to look for are when your nervous system feels calmer, your head feels clearer, your mood feels lighter, and you generally feel more at peace, having successfully moved any stagnant energy out of you. 

*Optional additional Step:

Take out a large piece of paper and colored pencils, markers, finger paints, or whatever other art materials you have available. Keep moving your body as you add color, lines, and marks to your paper. You may continue to keep your eyes closed as you do this, as to avoid get caught up in focusing on how you piece looks--remember to keep your attention on how the expression feels! 

 

The idea behind this final step is to allow you to transfer and express the emotions you are feeling in your body from the movement and music exercise onto the paper. What will result in a visual expression of your energy in that moment. You may even take a moment to name your piece. 

Voila! You've used movement therapeutically! Feel free to use this exercise anytime you feel like getting out of your head and into your body. 

Modern Dancer

Additional Resources:

 

https://www.tamalpa.org/

https://www.adta.org/

Check out this video for an introduction to movement therapy exercises:

TERAPIA DE MOVIMIENTO

Modern Dancers

Los beneficios curativos del movimiento son innegables. Solo piense cuánto mejor se  siente al dar un paseo rápido después de estar sentado en una oficina todo el día o cuánto más despejada está su mente después de participar en una clase de baile. La terapia del movimiento se basa en la interconexión del cuerpo y la mente y en la suposición de que mover el cuerpo tiene abundantes beneficios mentales y emocionales. Al igual que con todas las modalidades de artes expresivas, la terapia de movimiento actúa como una salida para ayudar a facilitar la autoexpresión, la regulación emocional y el movimiento de la energía a través del cuerpo. Las emociones negativas pueden literalmente "atascarse" y causar una serie de problemas físicos si no se procesan. Participar en el movimiento, el canto, la escritura, la pintura y otros procesos de artes expresivas puede ayudar a que estas emociones se “despeguen” y resulten en un cuerpo y una mente más saludables.

 

Algunos pueden encontrar intimidante la idea de realizar movimientos, pero la buena noticia es que no es necesario ser un bailarín profesional para experimentar los beneficios de la terapia de movimiento, ya que todo lo que se requiere es mover el cuerpo de una manera que se sienta bueno. Además, "movimiento" no significa necesariamente baile. Hay innumerables formas de mover el cuerpo: saltar, rebotar, caminar, brincar ... ¡el cielo es el límite! Una vez más, la idea es simplemente hacer lo que se sienta bien. Además, las mismas endorfinas que te hacen sentir mejor cuando te mueves también te ayudan a concentrarte y dormir mejor, a tener más energía y pueden ayudarte a ser más resistente cuando te enfrentas a los desafíos mentales o emocionales de la vida.

 

Si bien el simple acto de mover el cuerpo es altamente terapéutico, la Danzaterapia es el uso formal de la “danza como terapia”. Definida, la terapia de danza / movimiento (DMT) en los Estados Unidos es el uso psicoterapéutico del movimiento y la danza para apoyar las funciones intelectuales, emocionales y motoras del cuerpo. Como modalidad de terapia de artes expresivas, DMT analiza la correlación entre movimiento y emoción. También llamada "psicoterapia del movimiento", no existe un tipo primario de estilo de movimiento utilizado dentro de esta práctica terapéutica. Los programas de DMT van desde el uso de bailes tradicionales como el salón de baile hasta formas más sutiles de movimiento como el yoga y los estiramientos para calmar el cuerpo. Los terapeutas de danza ayudan a las personas a trabajar en problemas mediante el uso de un "vocabulario de movimiento" que se centra en la expresión física en lugar de las palabras y tienen una maestría en terapia de danza/movimiento.