Moving the body for entertainment and wellness goes back to our earliest ancestors, as documented by dancing figures in cave art around the world. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dancer, there are numerous easy ways to use dance to elevate your body, mind and spirit. A gentle sway, a simple bounce, a little shuffle. Rhythmic movements that are similar to a heartbeat get you out of your head and into your body, and that alone improves health and well-being.

What are the health benefits of dance?

Dancing increases endorphin production in the body while decreasing stress levels and improving mood. Studies have shown that dance can improve balance, strengthen muscles, prevent falls, reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues, and even decrease symptoms of dementia.

Similar to yoga, the movement of dance can ease muscle tension and increase a sense of presence. With this elevated awareness in your body you can consciously choose to open yourself to the rhythm of the music, intuitively move your body, and literally “shake things up”. That’s when true healing can take place. Dance is a conversation between you and your body that will leave you feeling more grounded, in tune and revitalized.

Ways to use dance for wellness

A simple web search can quickly introduce you to many forms of therapeutic dance. You’ll see that there are tons of options, so follow your intuition. You may want to join a local group dance, take a workshop, or work with a trained professional to direct your movement journey. But you can also get started right now with a simple awareness exercise that can be done alone or with others.

Awareness exercise

Create enough space to comfortably move your body, but don’t let a smaller space prevent you from doing the exercise. Turn on some music that will get you going. Standing with your feet flat on the floor, bring awareness to your body. Slowly begin to move to the music. Feel where there is constriction and tightness in your body. Is there rigidity that needs to be released? Where are you out of balance? What wants to be heard? Trust your body’s inherent wisdom, and move with authenticity. Afterwards, take time for a little cool down stretch, being gentle with your body.

Dance is a universal gift we can all practice almost anywhere and at any time. It is one of the oldest methods for promoting health, and is also one of the most fun. Find your rhythm through recorded or live music, or by using your own voice or instrument. I have even danced to nature’s songs with gentle breezes swaying around me. Allow yourself the freedom to move without expectations, limits or restrictions to tap into the transformative power of dance and movement for a total-being health practice.