Dance as therapy: Dance your way to health and happiness
Written by Dancessense Studios March 1, 2017
What do you picture when you hear the word “therapy?” An office with a couch? A physical therapy facility where people do exercises to rehabilitate from an injury?
Many people don’t associate therapy with dance, but it is indeed a form of physical and emotional therapy. Aside from the exercise-related benefits you get from dancing–improved circulation, weight loss, muscle tone, etc.–dancing can help your brain, too. Learning different styles of dance actually can aid coordination, focus, and mood.
A Natural Therapy For ADD?
Kids generally have a lot of energy, and those coping with ADD or ADHD need an outlet for hyperactivity. A child with ADD and ADHD is unable to learn in the same way as their peers, especially in a structured classroom environment at school.
Parents seeking a natural therapy for ADHD or ADD rather than prescription medications might consider enrolling their child in a dance class. It has been proven that involving kids in performing arts such as dance can greatly improve their ability to focus in the classroom. This is also true for kids with dyslexia–Dancessense owner, Melissa Dexter, was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and found that dance (first ballet, and then ballroom dance) was a huge help to her.
Dancing activates both sides of the brain, which means that kids can learn the logical and mathematical aspects of dance while also having the opportunity to express themselves creatively. It also helps with coordination issues. Children with ADD and dyslexia tend to have high IQs and the capacity to be extremely creative, but in a classroom environment or during structured activities like sports, they often struggle to learn and connect with their peers. This can lead to aggression if there is no outlet for them to expend their energy.
Since dance is a social activity, kids also learn how to cooperate, work as part of a team, and build healthy communication skills that might not come naturally to them otherwise. Finding a fun outlet that involves creativity gives kids a boost of confidence, too. Parents may find that even a shy child who struggles in school might feel a lot better about themselves after finding something they’re good at while having fun. Dance might not be right for every kid, but in a lot of cases, it can serve as a natural therapy for ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and many other challenges.
A Natural Therapy For Muscular Dystrophy?
As of now, there’s no medical cure for muscular dystrophy. However, the power of dance can act as a therapeutic component, and combined with the medications and treatment prescribed by doctors, it can greatly slow the course of the disease. Because dance utilizes both sides of the brain and every muscle group in the body, it’s an effective way to slow the rate of muscle weakness.
Many people diagnosed with muscular dystrophy use a wheelchair because the disease affects muscle mass. Did you know that people in wheelchairs can participate, excel and even compete in dance? There are world championships for wheelchair dancers! The chair becomes an extension of the dancer themselves, allowing them to create and choreograph inspiring dances.
Even if someone in a wheelchair doesn’t want to dance competitively, there are plenty of benefits to dancing. It can provide a myriad of benefits to the body–muscle strength and tone in the upper body, decreased blood pressure, alleviation of aches and pains, and increased flexibility, to name a few. Most importantly, the ability to express oneself creatively through physical movement can restore a sense of normalcy and serve as a noticeable mood booster.
At Dancessense, our experienced teachers know how to work with anyone who wants to dance, regardless of skill level or physical ability. The main reason to dance here is to have fun, and that’s what we focus on. It’s not about winning or competing. We simply love helping people discover fun and fulfillment in dance. With the 20-30 different types of dance styles we offer, you’re sure to find one that you can connect with.
Dance Improves Post-Stroke Conditions
The road to recovery after dealing with a stroke can be a difficult one. Many people lose mobility and struggle to regain the life they lived before the stroke. At Dancessense, we have experience in teaching dance to students who have suffered from strokes, and have witnessed them excel at dancing while gaining physical benefits from their perseverance.
The idea of learning to dance after a stroke might sound daunting, which is why our instructors work with stroke survivors at whatever pace they feel comfortable with. Studies show that stroke survivors who dance frequently will experience benefits that can’t be found in other forms of physical therapy. Plus, dance is much more enjoyable than traditional forms of rehabilitation.
Dance for Patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Dementia
In many cases, dance can act as the closest thing to a natural therapy for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease. It is even an excellent preventative measure. There are a number of studies that break down the scientific benefits of dance for patients who are either dealing with these diseases or seek to prevent their onset.
A successful form of therapy for Parkinson’s disease is called rhythmic auditory stimulation, or RAS. This therapy involves asking patients to move to different rhythms–precisely what dance is all about! There are so many different types of dance classes offered at Dancessense, and all of them involve learning the ability to move to the rhythm of music. In addition to having much more fun in a lighthearted dance studio environment compared to a hospital or rehabilitation center, patients can improve muscle function simply by moving to a rhythm.
Dance is helpful for much more than muscle function, though. The process of learning a dance is enormously helpful to the brain. It actually improves both short-term and long-term memory. A study was conducted to compare the different activities people might try in order to deal with or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was revealed that in comparison to activities like golf, swimming, reading, and crossword puzzles, dancing on a frequent basis actually provided a 76 percent chance of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia–a much higher percentage than any of the other activities. Swimming, for example, provided 0 percent risk reduction.
The study might sound very scientific, but the reasons why dancing is helpful for Alzheimer’s and dementia are actually pretty simple. Basically, when the brain is presented with new information, it forms new neural pathways. Trying something new is an excellent way to get yourself moving in a new direction. The more pathways your brain forms, the better.
Dancing Away Depression and Anxiety
Dancessense students always leave our classes with smiles on their faces. Even students who show up to class in a bad mood after a long day at work, or those dealing with personal tribulations, always seem to feel better after dancing. Moving your body releases endorphins that improve your mood. This is true of all exercise, but there’s an extra boost in those benefits from dance because of the added element of music, which activates the “happy” parts of your brain.
Dancing helps with anxiety because it serves as a distraction. A dance student must focus on what their body is doing, keeping them present in the moment and away from their worries about what’s going on in their life. Paying close attention to your body as you work on learning a new move or dance sequence means that you’re not thinking about your bills, your job, or other stressors. This switch in focus is helpful for people struggling with depression and PTSD, and also for those who are recovering from substance abuse. Shifting your inner focus to the present moment and the movement of your body helps break the cycle of repetitive thinking that many people struggling with issues like depression or addiction fall into
Taking dance classes is fun, and we strive to ensure our students truly enjoy themselves. It always feels good to learn something new and excel at it. Dancessense is a warm and welcoming place with instructors who have experience teaching people of all skill levels, abilities and ages. So come on in and give it a try–you might very well find dancing to be your new favorite activity!