For more than 4000 years the spiritually awakened have practiced different types of movement meditation.
Tai chi. Qigong. Yoga. These meditative exercises (or “dynamic meditations”) have existed for thousands of years.
But perhaps the most important form of mindful-movement is meditative dance.
Meditative dance is one of the oldest forms of meditation
Of the 31 major types of meditation, meditative-dance is one of the oldest styles of meditation.
That fact surprises a lot of people.
Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Daoists all use various forms of dance-meditations.
Hindu Meditative Dance
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.
Nataraja performs the Ananada Tandava, the dance through which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved (1).
Dance is so important to Hinduism that all Hindu gods have their own style of dance.
There are 23 celestial Apsaras—beings who dance to please 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.
Christian Dance Meditations
Modern Christianity uses a form of spiritual dance meditation to bring a person closer to God.
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 dance as a means of worship (4).
Judaism also involves a sacred 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).
Buddhist Dance Mediation
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
Spiritual dance is also huge in different countries
Do you love travelling? Me too. I love nothing more than travelling to different countries and learning about their culture.
If you like to travel you will probably have seen many different types of meditative movements that are not strictly religious or spiritual.
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.
Non-Religious Dance Meditation
Dance meditations (often called “Dynamic meditations”) stem from world religions. But they need not be strictly religious or even strictly spiritual.
Dynamic meditations are also not limited to dance.
Personally I can find a deep state of meditation when I’m out for a run or when I’m exercising (I practice a lot of kickboxing and strike-style cardio). Those types of exercises can be meditative too.
The term “dynamic meditation” is very broad. So for convenience sake and to contemporise dynamic meditation, let’s simply say that dynamic meditation is any type of movement that can be used to meditate on the body.
How Dance Meditation Turned To Dynamic Meditation
Dance meditation existed thousands of years ago. But it went through a huge evolution in the 1970s with Osho.
Osho was an Indian mystic and sage who became wildly popular in the 1970s when he toured America.
Osho redefined meditation.
An artistic and creative guru, Osho gave the world new forms of meditation that incorporated dance and movements.
Osho believed that it would be impossible for a person in the modern day to simply sit still and enter a meditate state.
Osho said, “I never tell people to begin with just sitting. With a mad dance, you begin to be aware of a silent point within you; with sitting silently, you begin to be aware of madness.”
Osho was not focused on the idea of meditation being strictly spiritual or religious, either. He believed that meditation could be used for connecting to the divine, for self realisation, or as a way of healing and exercising the mind and body.
Why Do Dynamic Or Dance Meditations
You may have heard: There are over 100 benefits of meditation. And many of those benefits are based on the typical seated meditations.
So why do dynamic meditation or dance meditation?
Dynamic meditations offer unique benefits that you wont find in other forms of meditation.
Well, for starters, dance has tons of benefits.
Dance is actually one of the best hobbies for happiness.
Here are some of the 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 or cushion, sitting for a long period of time is not ideal)
And dynamic meditations offer these benefits:
- 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
The Problem With Seated-Meditations
If you’re expecting seated meditation to perform some sort of miracle in your life, you will probably end up disappointed.
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.
When we practice meditation we should do so to counteract inherent problems with our lifestyle.
For instance, if you generally live a noisy and busy life, you can use meditation to counteract the noise and to give your mind moments of quiet.
Sitting is one of the most common problems with the average lifestyle
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.
For most people, standing and moving is better than using seated meditation postures
If you spend too long sitting down, it is just good sense to stand or move when meditating.
Meditation is not the be all and end all. It should be used as one part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Far too many people are attempting to use meditation as a cure-all. It won’t work.
Even the most devout Buddhists do not just use meditation. They eat healthy diets. They learn movement techniques, including dance. They study philosophy. They use meditation as one part of the puzzle. And when they meditate, they use both seated meditations and movement-meditations.
Movement And Dance Meditations To Try
1. The Basic Osho Dynamic Meditation Technique
Osho’s dynamic meditation technique is a powerful exercise for the mind-body.
This technique creates joy and creativity, it connects us to the moment, and it shakes lose and stubborn though-patterns or habits.
There are a few important starting notes that you need to bear in mind before attempting this technique.
What to know before you start
- Firstly, dynamic meditation is entirely about moving when your body feels like it.
- Unlike yoga, for instance, when we are moving through specific poses (asanas), with dynamic meditation we are moving as the body dictates.
- It’s important to allow your body to dictate the way you move, rather than controlling your body with the mind. It’s also important to make sure that you are not inhibiting your body in any way. Move entirely as the body dictates, not more and not less.
- It is also important to practice dynamic meditation in the right place. The right place for dynamic meditation is a large room where you have plenty of space to move without worrying about bumping into anything. It is also important that your room be free of any distractions. Removing any clutter will help.
- It is important to break old body-mind patterns because they keep a person locked in the past. The dynamic meditation will produce feelings of freedom while breaking through their self-imposed walls.
- The dynamic meditation technique is best done in the early morning when the sun is rising and the earth is bursting into life.
- To do the dynamic meditation you must be continuously alert and aware. The meditation has three steps. The first step is breathing, the second step is the purification of feeling and emotion and the third step uses the mantra “Hoo.”
- During the first step, which is the breathing meditation, it is important not to get lost in the breathing but to make sure that you are aware of yourself breathing. You should breathe deeply and fast, using all of your energy to breathe. Just as in other breathing meditations you should make sure that you are aware of the breath, as though you were a spectator looking on. You should maintain this quality of observation during the entire dynamic meditation technique.
Dynamic Meditation Instructions
1) Stand up and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing for five minutes to relax.
2) Now focus on your body. Meditate on the sensations in your body as you would when performing body scan meditation. Before long you will find an impulse to move. It will be as though your body is asking your mind to allow it to move. Go with it. Let the body control the mind. Let your body dictate its own movement. Be loose enough (mentally) to listen to your body and to let it move itself.
3) After ten minutes begin to get more and more into the spiritual dance until you are moving quite actively. Continue to focus on your body while you dance. Dance for twenty minutes with or without music, whichever you prefer. You should feel no distinction between mind and body and no distinction between yourself and the dance. You’re no longer the person dancing. You are the dance.
4) When you are ready to finish, shake out any tension and lie on the floor. Meditate on your surroundings for five minutes (doing open monitoring meditation).
2. Nataraj Meditaton (a spiritual dancing meditation)
Do you love dancing? Are you the type of enlightened person who loves active-meditation styles? Then you are going to love dance meditation.
And you’ll get so much out of it.
Dance meditation is:
- Great for happiness and positivity
- A powerful mood-enhancer
- A great way to change your habits
- And one of the best alternative forms of meditation
The most important of all dance meditations is Osho’s Nataraja technique.
Nataraj is considered a “total meditation”, a meditation in which inner division vanishes and we are left with a completely relaxed state of awareness.
When you practice Nataraj meditation, aim to forget about being a “dancer”. Aim instead to become the dance itself. Connect to the divine energy inside of yourself. Let go.
How to do Nataraj Dance Meditation.
Stage 1:40 minutes
Stage 1 is the longest stage and should last 40 minutes. In this stage you must dance with your eyes closed. Allow you unconscious to completely take control. Make sure that you are not controlling your movements and that you are not aware of the steps. Just dance. Become one with the spiritual dance.
Stage 2: 20 minutes
The next stage is done lying down and meditating on everything. Meditate on your body and on the environment. Be still and silent.
Stage 3: 5 minutes
This final stage is a celebration. Let go, dance and have fun. Dance how you want to, listening to your body and moving how it dictates. Enjoy the movement. This should be a truly joyous activity.
3. Meditating To Other Movements And Exercises
As well as practicing these specific dynamic meditation techniques, you can also meditate while doing traditional exercise.
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.
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
Which exercises make the best meditations?
Movement meditation is the future
These exercises are great for both the mind and body. And they are thoroughly enjoyable.
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