Movement is our first form of communication. In our mothers’ wombs, we moved to communicate. When someone placed a hand on our mother’s big, pregnant belly, everyone got so excited when they felt a kick. From that first kick through early childhood, we moved freely without inhibitions.
Practicing mindful movement can teach us to explore the curiosity, sense of playfulness, and carefree attitude we enjoyed as a child before we felt the impact of societal expectations. Dance can bring us back to this original state and help us feel more human and uninhibited.
When I dance, I become more of who I am—a courageous, elegant, powerful human. But I’ve seen many dancers struggle to connect with their true selves because of the toll performing takes on their bodies. It can be easy to fall into a people-pleasing trap and lose sight of why we dance. Mindfully dancing goes beyond the external performance so you can connect to your true Self. For me, mindful dancing helps me be in the present and feel more focused, which allows me to speak my truth.
I’ve taken dance and yoga classes where it is all about results and appearance. In my classes, I focus on how you want to feel during and after class, while also taking note of how you felt before class and how that may have changed.
Simple Ways to Add Mindful Movement to Your Own Practice
Here are four things to keep in mind as you incorporate mindfulness into your movements.
1. Listen to your body and trusts what it tells you.
Mindful movement teaches you to listen to your body’s intuition. When you harness the power of nonverbal communication and observe how your body instinctively responds to a particular situation, you become more in tune with what you truly need. During times of despair or grief, I’ve turned to movement to process things that aren’t explainable with words. When I didn’t know what to say, I just allowed my body to move.
2. Be present and set an intention.
To make your dance or yoga class a more mindful practice, you first need to commit to the practice, be fully present, and set an intention. Ask yourself, “Why are you taking the class?” Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I want to get moving,” “I want to feel more focused,” or “I want to take care of my health.” Keeping your reason for taking the class top of mind can make the difference between just going through the motions and experiencing something transformative.
3. Connect with your body.
Movement creates authentic community and connection because it’s a lot harder to mask body language than words. If you find it difficult to turn inward and connect with your body, start by focusing on wiggling specific body parts like your fingers, wrists, and arms before moving down to your toes, ankles, and knees. Move through the rest of your body, sending your breath to each part of your body and connecting with how each part is feeling. If your leg is tight, move to loosen it up without pushing it harder than is comfortable. Express gratitude for what your body can do in the moment.
4. Move freely with abandon.
Now it’s time to dance like nobody’s watching. Turn on a favorite song and let your body move without worrying about what you look like. Just focus on being in the moment and having fun. We are most free when we stop caring about what other people think. Turn off the critical adult and let that wild, carefree toddler take flight.
Photo by Zoe Hernandez, @zoeellaa.
Trisha Fey Elizarde (she/they) is a dance creative, model, and yoga instructor dedicated to nurturing radical resilience and creative expression—and Yoga Journal’s 2021 Live Be Yoga Experience Ambassador. This year our intention is to SPARK JOY through movement, mindfulness, rest, gratitude, and kindness. The Live Be Yoga Experience presented by NOW is sponsored by Cetus, JointFlex, NOW Essential Oils, NOW Supplements, Visit Sun Valley, and Zebra CBD. Follow the 2021 Live Be Yoga Experience and stay connected with us @livebeyoga.