When I first started using dance as a practice, I had already been sitting in meditation an hour a day for years, so it came naturally to me to do the same with movement. Almost religiously, I would clear aside an hour a day to dance. Then one day, I got the clear sense that today’s ‘lesson’ was not to practice at all. Rather shocked, after twenty years of showing up daily and having grown to depend upon that, I went to the kitchen to make some tea, as we do in England when the boat gets rocked.
A couple of days later, also in the kitchen, there was a moment when I felt a pressure building up inside me so strongly I just had to burst. I jumped up and down, shouting incoherently for a few seconds. Feeling much better, I went back to making lunch.
That was a revelation. I realised that my daily hour of practice was a pressure release valve, where I could go wild, be emotional, creative and generally ‘weird’, allowing me to be nice and normal the rest of the time. Without that release, my true nature (which like most of us is wild, emotional, creative and weird) just had to come out in ordinary moments in the kitchen, or I would go crazy.
That was almost twenty years ago, and I would say it’s still work in progress.
Here are some of my favourites that can be done at any time:
Notice how your body feels. Even if you don’t change a thing. Just listen inside.
Take a deep breath.
Notice when your body wants to be in a different position, or another place in the room, and allow it to change.
Have a stretch.
Hands-on: I reckon most of us need a lot more holding and reassuring than we allow ourselves. What’s it like to tenderly place a hand on your belly or chest? Or to hold your own hands in each other, but consciously, lovingly?
When movement is OK (if you’re at work, or on a train or plane (remember those?), use the toilets for privacy!):
Wriggle and writhe around for a few seconds. Make faces. Change shape and stretch in all directions.
Express your feelings physically, whatever they are. Strong exhales, stamping feet, vigorous moves. If it’s OK to make a noise, use your voice too. Let it out!
Shake and shudder to release tension or shed a skin. Let it go.
Move or shape yourself physically in a way that embodies what you choose to be. For example, if you’re uptight, consciously relax, or if you need to show up assertive to a meeting, walk to that meeting with giant strides and head held high, breathing deeply.
Don’t wait for the dance floor
All of the above can be done for a few seconds, improving your health, strengthening your energy and deepening your presence. I call these micro-practices. Don’t wait for a dance floor! Allow all that practice you’ve done to spill out into the rest of your life: listen to the felt sense of your body as you go, and experiment. Especially in the kitchen 🙂
It does help to have a partner who feels the same way, and joins in or laughs with joy rather than rolling their eyes if you break a move over breakfast. But even subtle moments, repeated often, can change your experience of life.
All of this helps to integrate what you learn in your practice into the rest of your life. Otherwise, what’s the point?