When was the last time you moved?
Likely, it was within the past few seconds adjusting your physical position as you read this article. Your body is constantly moving. Both internally (your heart is beating, your lungs are expanding and contracting) and externally as you engage with the world around you. Yet, we seem to neglect to pay attention to both forms of movement, at least consciously.
“Mindful movement,” has to do with beginning to pay attention to, or be mindful of the ways we move, when we move, why we move, and how we move. As human beings, we are constantly in motion.
Dance/movement therapy (DMT) asks us to think about movement differently. Rather than as a performative experience, dancing becomes a process-based experience, through which we can discover and transform aspects of ourselves.
DMT is rooted in a holistic approach, which emphasizes the importance of attuning to our embodied state, and not merely our cognitive, mental, or emotional experience.
In her book, “Body Aware”, Erica Hornthal says, “Your greatest tool and most underutilized resource to bring awareness and implement change is your body”.
It’s not about what your movement “looks like”, but rather about what it “feels like”.
Hornthal provides an integrative framework for beginning to implement movement practices into your life. She explains the importance of exploring how you move, and how movement can bring about transformation and resilience. This resource is an excellent starting point if you are interested in learning more about this topic, as is her Instagram page.
In this blog article, I’ll highlight a few movement practices or explorations which I find can provide a preliminary window into the possibilities of mindful movement and dance/movement therapy. It’s important to note that these practices are not prescriptive—sometimes challenging or surprising things come up for us when we begin to engage the body. I would encourage you to process your response to these experiences with a trusted friend or therapist.
3 ways to incorporate mindful movement
Create intentional times for creative, mindful movement and/or play.
As we get older, we tend to neglect to give ourselves time to play without a particular goal in mind. Yet, dance and movement can foster experiences of creative play which are enjoyable and mood-boosting. Consider giving yourself five or ten minutes to move to a favourite song.
It’s not about what your movement “looks like”, but rather about what it “feels like”. Allow yourself to be surprised by exploring new ways of moving or by dancing with a prop, such as a scarf. Notice if a particular gesture, stretch, or movement pattern feels authentic to your feeling state, or if a new way of moving brings up new sensations.
Begin to be aware of how you move.
We all move through life in different ways. In DMT, the dance/movement therapist can begin to analyze the client’s “movement profile” or “movement repertoire”. Many different movement analysis tools or frameworks exist. By discovering or exploring how you move, you can begin to enact change and form new habits.
For example, do you find yourself consistently walking to work the same way in a very linear fashion or do you tend to meander, preferring less direct movement pathways? Do you spend long periods of time without moving at your desk or do you find yourself fidgeting, trying not to move? You can take some time to journal or jot down these types of movement qualities as you notice them.
Explore the relational benefits of mindful movement.
Dancing is a socially unifying activity, which can bring a collective sense of joy. With a friend, child, or partner, explore a “movement dialogue” by offering a gesture, and then responding back to your dance partner with a different gesture.
In DMT, “mirroring” or “movement reflecting” is a common technique to build a therapeutic alliance. In this practice, one person is the “mover” (moving however they feel led, perhaps to a song that resonates with them) and the other person is the “mirror” (reflecting back the movements of the other person). The goal is not to mimic your partner but rather to explore responding in a non-verbal and meaningful way.
To find out more about dance/movement therapy, or begin to explore these ideas in a more formalized setting, our care partnerships programs can bring DMT into your long-term care home, school, and more. If you’re looking for 1-on-1 options, our creative psychotherapy offering at creativepsych.ca connects DMT with psychotherapy to provide you with a unique pathway to self-discovery and self-expression.
Which of these mindful movement prompts inspires you the most?
Let us know in the comments below or book your free consultation with our team to explore group and/or individual DMT options.
Written by Eden Champagne