Did you know that dance meditations are one of the best ways to exercise your mind?
You probably already know that dance is one of the most healthy hobbies there is [READ: Best Happy Hobbies For Mental Health]. And of course, conscious movement exercises like these 28 forms of yoga are excellent for you too.
But if you truly want to do an exercise that will help your mind and body, try dance meditations.
There are so many benefits of dance meditation. And in many ways, it’s better than seated meditation.
Why You Should Try Dance Meditation
Dance-Meditations have existed for more than 4000 years. They became very popular in the last century thanks to Oshos’ dynamic techniques. [READ: Guide To Osho Meditations]
In a lot of ways, these dynamic, or active movement, meditations are better than seated meditations.
Movement meditations, on the other hand, strengthen both the body and the mind (and yes, the “mind-body” too).
Let’s look at the best types of dance meditation, and discuss why movement meditations are often better than seated meditation.
5 Active Movement Meditations Dancers And Exercise Enthusiasts
Active Movement Meditation 1: Meditative Dance
There are 31 major types of meditation. Dance-Meditation is one of the oldest and one of the best.
That fact surprises a lot of people.
“Most people think that meditation is limited to mindfulness and focusing on the breath. Actually, meditative dance has been around for thousands of years in many world cultures.”
Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Daoists all use various forms of dance-meditations.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
Active Movement Meditation 2. Hindu Dance Meditation
As with many spiritual practices, dance meditation finds its roots in Hinduism.
Hindus believe that the entire universe is the manifestation of the Supreme Dancer Nataraja (1).
Nataraja performs the Ananada Tandava, the movements through which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved (1).
Dancing is so important to Hinduism that all Hindu gods have their own style of dance.
There are 23 celestial Apsaras—beings whose dancing pleases the gods and who express the supreme truths via their movements.
In temples throughout India, and particularly in East and South India, spiritual dance used to be a part of a sacred ritual, where devadasi’s (girls dedicated to worship) worshipped the divine through a complex system of gestures and mimes.
This sacred ritual evolved to become the South Indian Classical Dance (2), which is still practiced today.
Active Movement Meditation 3. Christian Dance Meditation Techniques
Modern Christianity uses a form of spiritual dance meditation. This is done to bring us closer to God. There are also many forms of Christian meditation [READ: Christian meditation for beginners]
Though some verses of the bible describe dance as a sin (3), Christians have started using dance more commonly over the past few decades.
Beginning in the latter half of the 20th Century with the modernisation of Christianity, churches have used music and dancing as a means of worship (4).
Judaism also involves a spiritual dance meditation: the messianic dance or Davidic dance (5) (in reference to King David, who is said to have danced before the Ark of the Covenant).
Active Movement Meditation 4. Buddhist Dance Mediation Techniques
Dance is a very traditional form of meditation in Buddhism [READ: Buddhist Meditation Techniques]
Buddhist dance dates back many thousands of years (6).
The three main types of Buddhist dance meditation are the butterfly dance, the cymbal dance, and the T’aju (eight-fold path dance).
Butterfly Dance (Nabichum)
The Nabichum, or “butterfly dance”, is a Korean Buddhist dance. It’s called the Butterfly dance because of the costume–a white robes (jangsam) with drapes on the arm and a hat (gokkal) that make it look like a butterfly costume. The choreography also looks like the movements of a butterly.
Cymbal Dance (Para Ch’um)
The Cymbal dance is one of the most important of all Buddhist dances. It is like a carnival festival with drums, gongs and cymbals. The dancers hold the cymbals and use them as part of the dance.
The sound of the cymbals is said to drive away worldly desires.
T’aju (Eight-Fold Path Dance)
The T’aju represents the Eight-Fold Path, the Buddhist path leading to enlightenment.
In the book A Dance history Reader, Ann Dils says:
“In the Dance of the Eightfold Path (T’aju), an octagonal box with inscriptions on each side—representing the eightfold way of the Buddha— is placed on the ground between two dancers. Each holds a long, thin stick, and gently taps the top of the box as he moves around it.”
Buddhist ritual dances / spiritual dances
Active Movement Meditation 5. Other spiritual dance meditations
As well as the religious dance meditations above, there are many countries that have popular dance meditations.
In Japan, for instance, one very popular type of exercise is Katsugen Undo (regenerating exercise) (7). Katsugen Undo is a wonderful exercise in which you give up your conscious control of your body and allow your body to heal itself.
In China, similar exercises called Zifagong, Re-do and Zi Ran Qigong are also popular.
Iran and Turkey use similar unconscious movement and spiritual dancing meditation exercises. The Mevlevi Dervish, for instance, is a spontaneous type of movement that, like Katsugen Undo, involves giving up control of the body.
These Sufi movements are said to have been created when Rumi was walking through a marketplace one day. He heard the goldbeaters hammering rhythmically away and in a state of bliss he spontaneously broke into dance, spinning in a circle.
More Types Of Active Movement Meditation
As well as practicing these specific dynamic meditation techniques, you can also meditate while doing traditional exercise. One of the best examples is tai chi, which is incredibly good for you [READ: Health Benefits Of Tai Chi And Qigong]
Whether you’re doing yoga, tai chi, spiritual dance, going for a run or walk, or performing any other safe exercise, you can quickly convert that exercise into a meditation technique.
There’s just one caveat: Only ever meditate when performing exercises that cannot possibly lead to serious injury.
Obvious example: Running through a field? Check. Running next to a busy road? Scratch.
In fact, if you do enjoy running you should definitely try running meditation. Science shows that running while meditating is one of the very best things you can do for your mind and body.
Just always make sure your movement meditations are safe.
When you meditate you often forget where you are and become what you’re doing. That can potentially lead you to being unaware of your surroundings, which could cause an accident. So always, always be safe, and when in doubt check with a professional before continuing.
Making traditional exercise meditative
There are a few things you need to know when you’re using traditional exercises as meditation.
- I highly recommend trying Zen Walking first because it will train your mind to be mindful while exercising.
- For starters when you meditate on an exercise you are not burning calories. You’re not losing weight. You’re not getting in shape. You do not have an end destination. When you’re meditating on an exercise you are the exercise. Your mind is one with your body and your body is the exercise.
- When running be the running. Don’t be the person trying to drag their body down the road to burn some calories so you can fit into those jeans. Make it more divine than that. Make your mind the running. Perform the exercise mindfully. Consciously lift your foot, move it forward, plant it carefully down on to the ground, transfer your weight onto the other foot and repeat. That’s the entire process of running. That’s the process your mind should pass through with each and every step you take.
- When dancing, don’t try to look sexy. That’s just inhibition (and inhibition is not sexy). Liberate yourself. Connect with the energy inside your body. Make your mind that energy. Be it. That’s divine dancing. That’s what the devadasi’s in the sacred temples of India do. That’s what’s best for you when you practice spiritual dancing.
The Benefits Of Meditating While Exercising
There are lots of benefits of turning traditional exercise into meditation
1. It makes exercise more enjoyable
2. Trains the mind as well as the body
3. Meditation increases stamina
4. You will be less prone to injury because you are focusing more
Best exercises to use as movement meditations:
Movement Meditations VS Seated Meditations
You may have heard: There are over 100 benefits of meditation.
But if you’re expecting seated meditation to perform some sort of miracle in your life, you will probably end up disappointed, unless you balance it out with active movement meditations or dance meditations.
Many people think meditation is a cure-all. They turn to meditation because it is a quick and relatively easy way to solve a lot of health problems, among them being anxiety, depression, and stress.
No question mindfulness and meditation are attractive choices for the individual looking to boost their health. But meditation is not everything. And seated meditation postures are most definitely not everything. In fact, they can be harmful.
The average person spends 7.7 hours every day sitting down.
That is staggering amount of time. It adds up to 2810 hours a year sitting.
This sedentary lifestyle has serious health implications.
The American Medical Association states that sitting for extended periods of time can have serious health implications. And a series of scientific studies has shown that sitting down for too long can cause many serious illnesses.
Spending too long sitting down can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- And more
You can read about the health risks of sitting on the Harvard blog.
So why the hell would you want to spend even more time sitting down when you’re meditating? It makes absolutely no sense.
This is why active movement meditations, and dance meditations, are often better.
Just consider dance by itself. Dance is actually one of the best hobbies for happiness.
There are so many benefits of dancing.
- Improve social skills
- Helps with weight loss
- Promotes happiness and joy
- Releases inhibition
- Improves self confidence
- Improves cognitive skills
- Improves cariodvascular health
- Boosts creativity
- Healthier than sitting (even when you have a good meditation chair, sitting for a long period of time is not ideal)
When you combine mindfulness with this, things get even better. Dance meditations (mindful dancing, for instance), offer so many health benefits.
Here are some of the benefit of dynamic meditations
- Movement meditations make it easier to focus
- They are active (many people live too sedentary lives, which is one reason why seated meditations are often a bad idea)
- Dance meditations exercise both mind and body
- They enhance the mind-body connection.
- They are powerful ways of changing old habits.
- They are powerful ways of awakening
- They produce more joy than arguably any other type of meditation
- They will make us more creative
- They make us more playful
Movement meditations are great for both the mind and body. And they are thoroughly enjoyable.
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