I have recently recovered from a second bout of covid, and having much milder symptoms than the first time, I have had the opportunity to reflect a little more.
The first time I was knocked out by a nasty cough that just wouldn’t go away. And a general fatigue and sense of malaise.
This time, however, the physical symptoms were fairly mild, but I really noticed the change in my head. My thoughts turned to negative rumination and nonsensical replays of the depressing kind.
I did not notice obvious difficulties with breathing, but there is a lack of oxygen intake when we have the virus. When you consider that when the alveoli or small air sacs in our lungs can stretch out to the size of a football pitch, that is considerable air passageway potential. And it is not fully utilised when we don’t breathe properly. In fact due to our general inefficient breathing, around 20-25% of air in our lungs is air that has not been renewed, air that is stale and stagnant.
When we are deprived of oxygen, our brain cells die. Without wanting to sound dramatic at worse the lack of oxygen can cause a person to experience a wide range of symptoms, including confusion, dizziness, and seizures. In extreme cases, it could even lead to coma and death.
Is it any wonder then that the difficulty in breathing many of us experience with covid causes distress. This turns into fear, as we perceive a threat to our safety and well-being. The amygdala located in the brain, is responsible for processing fear-related information. When fear is experienced, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol which activates the sympathetic nervous system, our fight and flight system, and the hypothalamus, which activates our hormones.
The stress hormone cortisol can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also damage cells in the body and lead to conditions such as obesity and depression.
When we are fearful, it also affects our memory and the way we process information. For example, fearful people are more likely to remember negative information rather than positive information. A tendency of our human nature I believe.
So in these last few years, I can’t help but put my two pence in by
saying that we have been subjected to enough fear around covid for us
to get severely ill without even catching the virus!
Our mind is
the most powerful thing that we possess and is both our best friend
and worst enemy.
Enter the benefits of dance as a regular practice.
Yes all exercise is potentially good (if done mindfully, ie listening to your body, and not pushing it beyond its limitations). They can all increase your cardiovascular health, strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility and release endorphins to lift your mood. In fact, research has shown that regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
However, moving our bodies through dance is good for our whole physiology – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – our ‘soma’ in fact. Dance is not a sport and therefore non-competitive (I am not talking ‘Strictly’ here, but free dance where you are focussed on your inner self rather than your outer appearance.) It is accessible to all, whether fully, or partially abled. A dance is as big and expansive or as subtle and small as you want it to be. There are no particular rules or restrictions.
of the ways that dance can help relieve stress is by increasing our
sense of well-being. It
can help you relax, focus and forget about everything else for a
while. Our bodies are a powerful tool for self-regulation, not just of physical homeostasis. When we move and dance, the thoughts that are circulating
around in our mind have a chance to get grounded, and find an
anchoring in our body. If we have decisions to make, bringing them
into the body gives a sense of steadiness and an ensuing clarity. When we are able to focus in on
the sensations in our body, we can gain insight into our feelings,
to help make more informed decisions.
From a Somatic POV
The body is a powerful tool for self-regulation, and by anchoring thoughts in the body, we can help to 'moderate' our emotions. When we ‘anchor’ our thoughts in our body, we help to give these emotions some structure and some shape. We have a physical outlet for expression (that is nonverbal). Our language is invariably connected to analytical, logical left brain function, so in ‘moving’ with our thoughts, they no longer mill around in our heads. When we are able to focus on our thoughts through bodily sensations, the body can provide clarity and stability. We can better understand our feelings and make more informed decisions.
In Qigong, the Chinese talk of ‘using one thought to dispel a thousand thoughts', as sequences of intentional flowing movements are connected to gentle breathing. So the mind stills and clears of all the extraneous thoughts
When we dance in a ‘somatic’ way, we journey inwards, and it could be that we focus on a specific area of our bodies eg our stomach or our heart, but equally we may focus on a particular issue that continually runs astray in our minds. And as we start to move in more open and freer ways, our thoughts can take new shape and change.
And that why creative dance can be irregular and erratic, asymmetrical, unpredictable and unexpected. Creativity in itself means being able to think outside of the box –so we are not going to necessarily make nice uniform or symmetrical movements. On the contrary we may not look very aesthetic at all. We’re not talking dance for performance here, again strictly Not ‘Strictly’, but dance for ourselves; doing something that is purely for our own enjoyment.
This self- validation is in itself life-affirming, to not give a flying monkey about the fear of judgement from others. Instead it's about self-care, serving yourself rather than worrying that you have to cater to everyone’s needs – a healthy form of self-gratification that costs nothing, and gets you fitter – you don’t even need to have any special clothes or equipment. It is available 24/7 without prior booking, with the added potential benefit of therapeutic sound healing thrown in, when you move to certain music.
Dancing can also help us to connect with others and build relationships.
Come join one of the 2 Niio Dance courses I am launching soon, that will boost your immune system as well as your dance skills and get you ready and fighting fit for the summer.
FIND YOUR FLOW WITH DANCE BASICS – this is how it sounds. If you would like to be more expressive with your dance, learn some new ways to move, gain more confidence, and have fun and get fit in the process, then look no further!
You can explore and experiment in the comfort and convenience of your own space and home, but with weekly meet up and support- first zoom meetings 1st week of May.
With the audio downloads, you can in fact go out into nature even, drop out of your busy mind and go inward into your own dance meditation journey.
This is a testimonial from a previous participant:
"I liked the conversational way in which you directed our dance movements, and the suggestions that you made that included, as well as movement, ways of perceiving; ways of thinking about and feeling the sensations of our bodies.
I learned a lot about how I move, and how I could perhaps move, given enough practice and attention. There was so much that was new in the sessions and I will continue to use the recordings long into the future, as I carry on exploring. There only remains to say, thank you Helene, for the gift you have given. Bless you." Elizabeth
For more info about the course see here:
ROOTS AND WINGS
This is the flagship Niio course, and gives you insight into your mind-body connection as you drop deeper into your dance. This is course is not for you if you want clear specific dance steps. There is some structured guidance, but also the opportunity to find your own dance, and discover more about yourself along the way.
What is different on Helene's course is that she facilitates a journey where I can process emotions in my movement.
In Grounding dance journey, Helene starts with the idea of Genesis and our evolutionary beginnings. She combines descriptions of physiology and natural history with movement, simulating ourselves with the flow of nature. The visual landscape, music and the poetyry of her narration are so vivid, and changes as we explore our feelings. In the second video I felt that she is commentating on the story of my life, describing real experiences that we all feel - a unifying and affirming sensation. I cannot wait to start week 2!'
To find out more see https://www.niiodance.com/cour...
And if you want to learn some yogic breathing and embodied movement to get you started then join a FREE mini course here:
If you are anywhere near London over the Easter, then please come say hello at the Niio Dance stand at the Mind Body Spirit Festival, Olympia, Earl’s Court, London, 15th- 18th April, where you can also get full previews of the courses and special show discount.
See you there!