Exercise - Not Just For Your Body Anymore

Develop Your Mind Too

"For Beginners" (ZAGHAREET! Mar/Apr. 2005)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

In the previous article on "mind over matter" we looked at how your mental outlook affects your dancing. Let's continue looking at how we can best utilize our largely untapped mental powers to help us grow as dancers.

There's a simple "mental-exercise routine" you can use to draw deeply from the well of your potential abilities. This method accesses the creative unconscious or inner mind and connects the conscious with the unconscious so they can collaborate and work together in problem-solving.

Instead of a mat, weight belt, or ball, here's all you need:

  • time - this does takes time, and works best in sequence
  • relaxation - necessary to reach the proper part of the brain
  • to focus or remember the issue or problem - bring it into consciousness so it can be resolved.

The majority of this inner work is best done in 15-20 minute sessions when you have time to really relax (without actually falling asleep!). However, I still like to do this in little "mini-sessions" before any kind of creative work like dancing, teaching, speaking, or writing.

This mental process is the secular complement to prayer--an auto-suggestive soliloquy that works to align your inner forces to accomplish greater good. It's the basis of psycho-therapeutic work, and also of what's called "faith-healing" and the "placebo effect". It's ironic that researchers have long regarded the placebo effect as a nuisance factor in drug trials - completely missing the fact of spontaneous healing!

Tuning in To Our Natural Rhythms

According to Ernest Rossi's The Psycho-biology of Mind-Body Healing, integrating this quiet work with the low-activity phase of our natural (ultradian) rhythms achieves even greater effect. You've probably noticed these rest/activity cycles at work or in workshops lasting longer than 2 - 3 hours - after a period of alertness it becomes harder to focus and you need to take a break. Ignoring these subtle clues causes--you guessed it--stress.

   So pay attention to your natural rhythms, and when you find yourself wanting to take a break, do so and utilize the time by doing this brain-co-ordinating exercise.

Developing a Holistic Approach to Dance

If you thought dance was just movement; only a physical activity; or all about technique, now you can begin to understand how our mental processes can - SHOULD - be integrated into our art.

When you warmup your body before dancing: align your mental forces as well by focusing on what you're doing. Teachers, keep chatter to a minimum during warmups; dancers, breath and calm your mind.

Ignoring ANY aspect of reality is ultimately damaging to the Self. Our world manifests from triune energies--mental/material/spiritual forces--and emphasis on any one of them to the exclusion of the others makes for a lopsided, unbalanced, incomplete and unsatisfactory experience!

It's up to each of us to see that each aspect of our Self gets the workout it needs - give some attention to these areas not usually mentioned in class or workshops - and tap into ALL the power available to you.

Go to the previous article, on Your Inner Coach.